Cortland lawmaker: Constituents concerned about housing for "low-income minority people"

CORTLAND, N.Y. – The city of Cortland Common Council voted 6-2 Tuesday night to apply for up to $500,000 in affordable housing funds from the state.

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Linda Armstrong, program manager for Thoma Development, addressed the council Tuesday night about the city’s application for the funds from the New York State Office for Community Renewal.

The council discussed whether or not to seek up to $500,000 in state grant funding through the small cities program offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

During Armstrong's presentation, fifth ward alderman Clifton Dutcher, a Republican, said voters in his ward were concerned about the outcome of low-income housing projects in the city.

“My constituents are afraid that this basically allows HUD to come in and buy properties in their neighborhood, refurbish them and give them to low-income minority people,” Dutcher said. “They’re not happy about this, the people that I’ve talked to.”

Dutcher added that the city has many low-income areas and his constituents are “not happy about it being spread out throughout all of our areas of the city.”

Armstrong explained that one of HUD’s missions is not to concentrate all lower-income residents in one area.

“They want everyone to have an equal opportunity in finding housing,” Armstrong said. “If you say ‘minorities can only live here' ... it's discriminatory housing practice.”

Mayor Brian Tobin said the funds will address the city’s need for quality affordable housing.

“We could have a separate session on what HUD does and does not do, but here in the city of Cortland we’ve identified a need,” Tobin said. "We have an aging housing stock in the city, so this is not an easy task to accomplish."

The council voted 6-2 to apply for the funding, with Dutcher and seventh ward alderperson Linda Ferguson voting against the measure.

Armstrong said the city has historically been successful in getting at least a portion of the housing funds it applies for.

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