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THE ITHACAN

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THE ITHACAN

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Your donation will support The Ithacan's student journalists in their effort to keep the Ithaca College and wider Ithaca community informed. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Editorial: Ithaca must combat rising housing costs for local residents

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Illustration by Ananya Gambhiraopet

For most Ithaca College students, Ithaca acts as an impermanent home — a place to learn, meet friends and leave after four brief years of school. However, for many people, Ithaca is their community, their place. As Ithaca becomes an increasingly expensive town to live in, essential members of the Ithaca community are being pushed out. It is essential that the town of Ithaca prioritizes its residents by addressing the need for affordable housing and involving community members in policy decisions. 

The living wage in Tompkins County increased from $16.61 in 2021 to $18.45 in 2023, marking an 11% increase. This number was calculated as part of Alternatives Federal Credit Union’s Living Wage study and is used by Tompkins County Workers’ Center to advocate for employees in Ithaca. One of the biggest factors in this increase in cost of living is the rental market. A study conducted by the Washington Post found that the average cost of rent in Tompkins County was $1,702 in 2022, a 12.3% increase from 2019. These rising costs cannot be ignored. The town must invest in its community by creating policies that combat this cost of living crisis.

In 2022, Ithaca’s flood maps were redrawn and a policy was put in place requiring property owners in Special Flood Hazard Zones to purchase flood insurance. This is likely to contribute to even more expenses for tenants, since landlords may increase costs to pay for insurance. This could lead to further gentrification, since people who cannot afford the cost of flood insurance will likely be forced to move elsewhere. 

This displacement may disproportionately affect communities of color, given that 58.8% of Black employees, 49.1% of Latinx employees and 41.6% of Asian employees make less than a liveable wage, compared to just 35% of white employees. This is a prime example of how the town must protect its residents. Rather than allowing people to be displaced because they cannot afford new fees, the town should work to subsidize the cost of flood insurance, assuring residents that they are welcome in their community while also keeping them safe from natural disaster. 

In making decisions regarding housing, it is also imperative that the town consults residents, specifically tenants of rental properties. Tenants make up the majority of Ithaca’s 2024 Common Council, giving renters more of a voice in town decisions. This is a step in the right direction. The people impacted the most by policies should be the ones who are consulted when it comes to big decisions surrounding housing, wages and general cost of living. Ithaca is more than just a town. It is a community made up of working residents who must be protected.

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