Tompkins County Homeownership Program

Better Housing administers the Tompkins County Homeownership Program, which provides education, homebuyer counseling, and financial assistance to make a first home an achievable dream for many families. We offer our participants funds applied toward a down payment and closing costs. Since 1993, this program has helped over 350 low-to-moderate-income families and individuals purchase the places they now call home.

image description

Attorney Katrina Thaler-Medeiros looks on as Dan and Polly sign documents marking the 250th home closing with assistance provided by the Tompkins County Homeownership Program. They were “ecstatic” to find their perfect home. Contact us to find out how we can assist you.

How the Program Works

What we cover: This program provides assistance with down payment and closing costs, up to 30% of the total. The maximum financial assistance is $25,000. We also provide a home inspection before purchase at no charge to you.

What you cover: Clients must provide a minimum of $1,500 or 2% of the purchase price (whichever is greater) of their own funds for the home purchase. These funds cannot be gifts; you must demonstrate the savings. You must be able to obtain a first mortgage for the remainder of the purchase price from a local lending institution

Home price: We determine each client’s maximum approved price based on their financial situation. The program’s current limit is $150,000.

Timing: At a minimum, you should be prepared for the house purchase process to take approximately three months. House purchases and clients are required to be approved by the TCHOP Oversight Committee, which meets monthly.

Selling the home: If you move before the program mortgage is paid off or diminished, it will be paid off at the time of sale.

Home Eligibility

We cannot assist with purchasing a home for which you already submitted a purchase offer before entering the program. Properties may be purchased in all municipalities in Tompkins County except the City of Ithaca.

To be eligible for program funds, the home must be in good condition at time of sale; no “handyman specials” may be purchased. All homes must be on a permanent foundation. Many types of properties are eligible, including:

  • Single-family home
  • Double-wide mobile home on a permanent foundation
  • Condominium
  • Cooperative
  • Townhouse
  • Dwellings designed to accommodate more than two households are not eligible for program funding. A duplex or home with an apartment is eligible; however, rental income will be counted in the household eligibility calculation.

    We discourage homebuyers from looking at houses before completing the First-Time Homebuyers Workshop.

    Household Eligibility

    Income limits: To be eligible for assistance, households must have an income at or below 80% of the area median annual income, as calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

    Minimum income: Because of the cost of housing in Tompkins County, a minimum annual income of $14,000 is required.

    Credit history: Each applicant must have a credit history free from bankruptcy or serious credit problems that would make a first mortgage unobtainable from a local lending institution.

    Counseling: Participants are required to receive one-on-one counseling and education about home ownership before purchasing a home through the program. All required counseling and education sessions are free of charge.

    First-Time Homebuyer Workshops

    Each prospective homebuyer must complete a 3-Part series of First-Time Homebuyer Workshops (6 hours total), followed by 1-on-1 credit counseling as part of the process. Once complete, applicants may have their applications presented to the Oversight Committee for approval.

    Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm

    Location: Old Jailhouse Building – 125 E. Court Street, Ithaca NY.
    Workshops meet in the Conference Room.

    Registration: Workshops fill up very quickly. There is no charge to attend the workshops, however, registration is required. To register, please call Better Housing at 607-273-2187 ext. 201 or ext. 203.

    image description

    Adam and Amy will tell you that it is not without hard work that you make a house “a home” This “dream” was made possible by the assistance provided by the Tompkins County Homeownership Program. Call and sign up for the next workshop to learn about purchasing your “home.”

    2014 Schedule

    PART 1 PART 2 PART 3
    Mar 11 Mar 18 Mar 25
    Apr 11 Daytime
    May 13 May 20 May 27
    June TBA
    Jul 8 Jul 15 Jul 22
    Sep 9 Sep 16 Sep 23
    Oct 14 Oct 21 Oct 28
    Nov 11 Nov 18 Nov 25
    Dec 5 Daytime

    Home Repair Program

    This program provides repairs to help elderly and disabled homeowners live independently.

    Better Housing provides home repair services to elderly homeowners and disabled homeowners of any age in an effort to help them continue living independently. Between 85 and 100 households are assisted each year. We may be able to help with small jobs that need attention. Putting off small repairs often means more expensive ones later on. To find out if we can help you, please contact us.

    How It Works

    Eligibility: Homeowners 60 years and older and disabled homeowners of any age are eligible.

    Cost: Clients pay only the cost of materials. Skilled labor is provided at no cost. Depending on availability of funding, Better Housing may be able to help clients finance the purchases of materials. We welcome small donations from our clients to help us provide repairs to other homeowners, but this is not required.

    Types of repairs: Repairs related to health and safety are a top priority. Typical repairs include fixing or replacing deteriorated steps, adding handrails and grab bars, fixing leaky faucets, replacing broken windows, and installing wheelchair ramps.

    This program is not designed to alleviate emergencies or for housing rehabilitation. Since jobs are limited to a maximum of 35 hours per year, larger jobs are not possible. Work on heating systems, most electrical, and all roofing work cannot be done under the Home Repair program. Better Housing will help find alternative solutions if a homeowner needs repairs that are outside the scope of the program.

    How to apply: Contact us by phone at 607-273-2187 ext. 201 or by email to

    Home Rehabilitation Grants

    Better Housing works in local partnerships to administer rehabilitation programs throughout Tompkins County. Low-to-moderate-income homeowners receive assistance in making significant repairs to their homes. In the last three years 67 homes received rehabilitation assistance throughout the county.

    How the Program Works

    Better Housing’s Home Rehabilitation Grants provide substantial repairs such as roof replacement.

    Badly deteriorated porch and steps have been replaced with new pressure-treated lumber.

    Programs and partnerships: Better Housing has administered housing rehabilitation programs in most of the towns throughout Tompkins County. We partner with the County or with individual towns that have received grant funding for rehabilitation projects. Because funding is subject to federal and state grant availability, programs vary from year to year.

    Eligibility: Generally our programs follow a first-qualified, first-served process. We attempt to serve homes that have the most desperate needs first.

    In most cases, you must be a homeowner to qualify. Income documentation, proof that property taxes are paid to date, and proof that the home is covered by homeowner’s insurance must be provided. Your income will be determined and must fall within the grant’s allowable limits. Applications and all required documentation must be provided before we can determine your eligibility.

    Some programs are available specifically to disabled and elderly homeowners who need assistance with repairs and modifications to keep their homes safe and accessible allowing them to remain at home rather than moving into more costly institutional settings.

    Funding levels and cost: The level of assistance awarded to a household is determined by household need and by funding availability.

    Under almost all programs, a diminishing lien is placed on the property. In many cases a portion of the lien is forgiven each year the home remains owner-occupied. The amount of the lien is determined by the amount of the assistance provided. The lien remains in place for a pre-determined length of time which in most cases varies from two to ten years. If the home is sold, transferred, or rented during this period, the remaining balance must be repaid. The home must remain owner-occupied throughout the term of the lien. At the end of the term there is no further obligation to the homeowner.

    Types of homes: Most rehabilitation programs require the home to be owner-occupied and are for conventional stick-built homes. Assistance is sometimes available to homeowners living in mobile homes.

    Types of projects: Cosmetic repairs do not qualify. Many types of projects may be covered, depending on the parameters of the individual funding program.

    The repair process: Repairs are made by local, pre-qualified private contractors from a list maintained by Better Housing. You select three to four contractors from the list and we send bid packages to them. The program is able to provide funding for the lowest, available, responsible bid. Homeowners may choose a higher bid from a contractor of their choice, as long as the contractor completes an application and has the proper insurance and requirements. In such a case, the homeowner is required to pay the difference between that bid and the lowest bid.

    Proposed Lansing Reserve Housing Development

    Better Housing for Tompkins County, Inc. was established with the explicit goals of creating Better Housing, to support Better Communities, which results in Better Lives. According to the Village of Lansing Comprehensive Plan, one in three households in the Village have housing affordability problems or were spending more than the recommended incomes on housing. Additionally, the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan also has a main objective to “Maintain an adequate supply of affordable housing options for people with special needs and promote housing opportunities for locally-employed persons who prefer to live in Tompkins County.” This was highlighted by the study on housing affordability commissioned by Tompkins County that concluded the County will need over 3,000 new units of housing to insure that it maintains the economic growth and prosperity that has distinguished the County in Upstate New York.

    Lansing Reserve is an attempt to respond to this demonstrated need for affordable housing. The site is located in a mixed-use neighborhood in the Village of Lansing, Tompkins County, in the Ithaca market. It will involve construction of sixty-five (65) town homes and one Clubhouse Building on 11 +/- acres of a single 22.8 acre site located on Wood Thrush Hollow Road (aka Northwoods Drive and/or Coventry Walk) north of Dart Drive, stretching between Graham and Warren Roads in the Village of Lansing, Tompkins County. The balance of the site is proposed to be retained as undisturbed Open Space via either a deed to a public entity or via a Conservation Easement. The site is adjacent to a connector on the Tompkins County Greenway Trails, which are a series of paths that promote pedestrian activity, and will be connected to the Open Space.

    The Development will consist of 65 total units: 8 – one bedroom, one bath 725 SF units; 18 – two bedroom, one bath 942 SF units; 29 – three bedroom, two bath 1,241 SF units; and, 10 – four bedroom, two bath 1,360 SF units. Units are targeted to area residents earning between 30% and 90% of the Area Median Income (AMI) with net rents ranging from $304 to $1,340 per month. When completed the well-planned community will be a well-appointed cluster development. All town homes will either be two-story or single story ranch (seven fully accessible units and three hearing and visually impaired units), built using wood frame construction, and will have a combination of solid surface and vinyl exteriors. Each town home will have an attached one-car garage. The Development will have a full-time Community Manager and Maintenance Manager to assist all resident needs that will operate from the Clubhouse. In addition to the generous size of the units, the amenities within each home are numerous, including: kitchen pantry; dishwasher; linen closet; large closet spaces; front/rear covered porch; attached one-car garage; programmable thermostat; and, In-Unit Washer and Dryer Hook-ups. Ten percent (10%) of the town homes will be constructed to be fully accessible for the physically disabled. Another five percent (5%) of the town homes will be constructed with design modifications for the visually and/or hearing impaired. Overall, the town homes will meet 100% visitability standards and contain numerous universal design features such as switches placed lower on walls, outlets placed higher on walls, non-slip flooring or lower pile carpeting, lever faucets, etc. The Development provides a total of 2.0 parking spaces/unit for residents, and 11 spaces for the Clubhouse.

    Lansing Reserve fully integrates Green design and building practices as well as other notable features including the Energy Star products and materials. Each town home has been designed (and received a certificate of compliance) to exceed the New York Energy Star HOME program from NYSERDA. Among the energy efficient features are: Energy Star central air conditioning, refrigerator, and dishwasher in kitchen. Furnaces with 95% AFUE Rating, windows with a U-factor rating of .40 or below, R-15 insulation in walls, Energy Star light fixtures and sensors, Green Label flooring, low VOC paint and adhesives, low-flow toilets and fixtures, ventilation features, and native landscaping.

    The Development will be owned by Lansing Reserve LLC (“LLC”). The Managing Member of this LLC will be a for-profit to-be-formed corporation that will be owned 51% by an affiliate of Better Housing for Tompkins County (“BHTC”), and 49% by The NRP Group, LLC. BHTC will provide management of the Development. NRP Contractors LLC will be the general contractor for the Development. NRP Contractors LLC will work with BHTC to identify qualified subcontractors and suppliers available to assist on the Development. RDL Architects, Inc. is the architect for the Development. RDL will retain local engineers to assist in the design of the Development, and has already retained T.G. Miller to provide Surveying and Civil Engineering for the Development.