News & Event
Posted May 2, 2018 at 7:41 PM
Updated May 2, 2018 at 7:41 PM
PROVIDENCE — Narragansett Town Planner Michael J. DeLuca, speaking for eight communities in Washington County, urged a legislative commission Wednesday to change state law so that more low-cost housing could be counted as affordable housing.
This in turn would help more towns meet the state’s mandate to have at least 10 percent of the housing stock be affordable, without having to build more housing.
DeLuca also asked that the state law be changed to acknowledge that many slow-growing rural communities can’t immediately meet the state’s 10-percent affordable-housing mandate.
He said he was representing town planners from Richmond, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Hopkinton, Charlestown, Westerly, Exeter as well as Narragansett, in his presentation before the Special Legislative Commission to Study the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act.
The commission, chaired by state Rep. Shelby Maldonado, D-Central Falls, is charged with studying and possibly recommending changes to the state’s affordable-housing law, the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act. Maldonado said the group will meet once more before their report is due on May 30 to review a draft report.
DeLuca said that mobile homes, apartments rented with Section 8 vouchers, and in-law apartments should all be counted toward a community’s affordable housing stock. The law now says that only deed-restricted affordable housing should be counted; this provision was put in because housing values can rise swiftly during market upturns.
DeLuca also noted that many rural and/or waterfront communities face a dearth of developable land, because of wetlands and a lack of infrastructure such as public water and sewer connections. Many small towns also lack services such as public transportation, and have few local job opportunities, he added.
Other speakers addressed issues surrounding the State Housing Appeals Board, which hears appeals of affordable-housing proposals in communities that haven’t met the minimum affordable-housing mandate.
Michael V. Milito, of Rhode Island Housing, pointed out that the law now has no time limit for municipalities to act on comprehensive permits for affordable-housing developments. Another attorney, Kelley Morris, chairman of the State Housing Appeals Board, noted that state law doesn’t give SHAB enough time to review the often daunting load of paperwork that comes with appeals. She added that only 15 of the 39 communities in Rhode Island have an approved affordable-housing plan.
Karen Scott, Glocester’s town planner, suggested that state lawmakers establish a realistic annual goal for incrementally increasing affordable-housing stock. She said Glocester typically issues only about 17 building permits for new homes per year, and is more than 300 units shy of meeting its 10-percent affordable-housing mandate.
Two Brown University students, Cynthia Lu and Jenna Gosciak, and a recent Brown graduate, Oscar Dupuy d’Angeac, told the commission about their efforts to build a multi-media resource for affordable housing in Rhode Island. D’Angeac was the person who started a GoFundMe page to assist an elderly Providence couple, Madonna and Butch Trottier, and Madonna Trottier’s son, Stephen Tobin, who are facing eviction from their home in Federal Hill.
On Twitter @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Posted Jan 3, 2018 at 6:05 PM
Updated Jan 3, 2018 at 6:05 PM
The prospect of new buildings on the State House lawn is nearly unthinkable. Of foremost importance to all Rhode Islanders is the sanctity of the State House and its setting. In addition to the building’s unrivaled architecture, the open space around it and its setting atop a hill are defining characteristics that make ours the most beautiful State House in America.
The continual paving over and development of open space is a national problem, as reported in The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s version of the Providence Preservation Society’s Most Endangered Properties list: “Landslide 2017: Open Season on Open Space.” As TCLF’s President and CEO Charles A. Birnbaum said with the release of this year’s list, “Open space is too often treated as a void, absent any cultural significance and waiting to be filled.”
Among landscapes in Rhode Island, the State House setting is significant in its entirety. While there is some argument about whether the current lawn is what was planned by the architects McKim, Mead & White, there is no doubt that what currently exists has gained important meaning in its own right, including the site for recent citizen rallies and protests that occupied much of that open space. We can think of no other location in Rhode Island that is truly “common ground.”
Those who believe in historic preservation believe deeply that our actions today should be considered in terms of their impacts on future generations. This way of thinking causes people to be more thoughtful, to examine all possible solutions, to think beyond the present circumstances. Change must happen, especially when the public gains more than it will lose. Those gains must be truly worthwhile, and not simply for convenience.
Because we think this way, the Providence Preservation Society has been a necessary influencer in local planning and development for more than six decades. For several years, we at the society have expressed concern about the state’s opportunistic taking of land around the State House in order to meet parking “demand.” In 2014, the state expanded an existing parking lot further onto the lawn. In 2015, the state created parking on Francis Street (Parcel 15), ignoring guidelines adopted by the city and state for the Capital Center Improvement District that disallows surface parking.
Government exists to protect the public good, which includes preserving places of meaning and beauty, such as the State House lawn and other open spaces in Providence. We also need the state to live up to the laws that are in place, those negotiated in good faith over the decades between multiple local and federal actors. That means respecting the authority of the Capital Center Commission. The commission has made it clear that this proposed project violates its rules and regulations, which were mandated by the state and federal governments as a guide to develop Capital Center.
The Providence Preservation Society strongly supports a better transportation system, and we encourage the state to find a solution that preserves the open space that has been entrusted to the citizens of Rhode Island through legal agreements, written plans and moral principles. We know the state is working with a development team on a plan for the transit hub, one which preserves the landscape, and we look forward to reviewing any plans that result from those conversations.
Brent Runyon is executive director of the Providence Preservation Society.
By Laura Jaworski
Posted:Dec 24, 2017 at 3:00 PM
Megan Smith was driving to work on Providence’s heavily traveled Broad Street one fall afternoon when she saw something in the road. It took her a second or two to realize that “something” was a man.
It was “horrifying,” Smith recalls. Even worse, other drivers weren’t stopping, just swerving to avoid the man. Smith pulled over to the curb, called 911 on her cell phone, and then sat with the man, who said his arm was broken, until a rescue squad arrived.
It was perhaps the man’s good fortune that one of the motorists was Megan Smith. She leads the street outreach program of the House of Hope Community Development Corp., in Warwick, seeking out people who not only are homeless — like the man in the road — but who also live mainly outdoors.
They are among Rhode Island’s most forgotten and vulnerable citizens. Sleeping in doorways and alleys, they have little or no money. Some walk miles for a free breakfast. They are the target of insults yelled from car windows. Often in pain, sometimes physically or mentally ill, many are in constant fear of being assaulted. None can be sure they’ll survive another day on poverty’s most dangerous frontier.
The work of our outreach team — as well as the work done by other nonprofit agencies throughout the state — is painstaking and often tedious. Earlier in December, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its annual Point in Time survey, which reported the homeless population in Rhode Island increased nearly 2 percent — that 1,180 of our fellow Rhode Islanders are seeking emergency shelter, or worse — sleeping outdoors.
Yet we are making progress. In this past year, House of Hope CDC’s outreach team connected with 550 individuals and provided services to 241, often something as simple as helping a person to get an identity card, a step which can lead to more consequential help, such as medical care, public transportation and, in 31 instances, homes.
As our outreach teams can attest, each homeless individual has a unique story that often involves the intertwined issues of poverty, mental illness and addiction. The work they’re doing helps to connect people to the array of services to meet their needs. But their most essential service may be listening, providing a human connection to people’s lived experiences.
The holiday season brings with it a heightened awareness about helping others and sharing our blessings with those who may otherwise go without. This year, I encourage Rhode Islanders to be generous with yourselves — take a moment to listen, to see, to help. This human transaction could be the most valuable gift you give all year.
Laura Jaworski (email@example.com) is executive director of House of Hope Community Development Corp., in Warwick.
Posted Apr 25, 2018 at 12:01 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island was ranked as one of the country’s least affordable housing markets in March, while in the first quarter of 2018, the state’s median house price jumped by 10 percent, rising to $252,250.
“Though Rhode Island’s housing market has not yet hit the peak reached before the housing downturn, strong price gains are affecting affordability, particularly among first-time home buyers,” the Rhode Island Association of Realtors said in its first-quarter market report, released Wednesday.
Rhode Island’s median house price reached $282,900 for the boom year of 2005, but it declined after the banking crisis in 2008, falling to $190,000 in 2012.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ affordability index, in March, Rhode Island, along with Hawaii, California, Oregon, the District of Columbia, and Montana, were identified as the least affordable places in the country, and where “households at the median income level can afford only 19 to 23 percent of the active housing inventory.” The index compares median incomes with the prices of houses for sale in given markets.
For Rhode Island, that means that the median-income household could afford to buy only 23 percent of the homes listed for sale in March. In states with the highest affordability scores in March, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Iowa and West Virginia, a typical household can afford 54 to 62 percent of the inventory.
The Rhode Island association also reported a 2 percent dip in the number of single-family house sales in the first quarter. There were 1,938 houses sold in Rhode Island during the first three months of 2018, down from 1,982 in the same period last year.
“The market is hot for sellers right now,” said association President Joe Luca. ”...Jobs and wages have increased but there’s no doubt that we also need additional properties on the market to help people realize the dream of home ownership.”
The median prices for single-family houses were highest in the East Side of Providence ($585,000), Jamestown ($612,500) and Block Island ($1,055,000). But even more affordable urban markets, including Central Falls, Providence (not including the East Side) and Woonsocket experienced median price increases in the first quarter.
The condominium market experienced increases in both number of sales and median price in the first quarter, the association reported. There were 424 condos sold in January, February and March, an increase of 7 percent from the same period in 2017. The median condo price rose by nearly 8 percent, and was at $210,000.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
The second quarter also saw a dramatic drop in the number of distressed sales, which include foreclosures and short sales. These sales fell to 127, down from 256 in the second quarter of 2017.
2nd quarter house sales in Rhode Island
Change from 2nd Q 2017
Average days on market
SOURCE: Statewide Multiple Listing Service, R.I. Association of Realtors
Although rising prices are seen as a mark of economic recovery, they also harm those struggling to afford housing. Just last week, the association noted that “skyrocketing” rents have bolstered the prices of multifamily properties in Rhode Island. The median sales price of multifamily properties rose 20 percent in the second quarter, to $240,000, and sales increased by 4 percent.
The return to 2008-level housing prices is “alarming,” said Brenda Clement, executive director of HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University. The state is in dire need of more housing, for sale and for rent, that is affordable for those earning below $50,000 a year, she said.
“There is no market for starter homes, for either homeownership or rentals,” Clement said. “Our vacancy rates are way too low ... We keep beating the drum,” she added, in the hope that “someone will listen.
By GABRIELLE FALLETTA | Aug 18, 2017
EAST GREENWICH - Several Rhode Island towns are facing negative impacts after being notified in late July that many of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications for local programs and agencies will not receive the funding they typically see.
Locally, six social services programs applied for a total of $136,702 to fund several projects in the area, and after the meeting in late July, East Greenwich, along with many other towns across the state, were notified that none of their applications from the Plan Year 2016 will receive funding.
“Historically you’d ask for it, and you’d get something,” said Community Development Consortium Director Geoff Marchant. “You wouldn’t always get everything you asked for, but you got part of it, and now, nothing.”
According to Marchant, the reason the RI Office of Housing and Community Development announced the applications would not be funded is due to over expenditure in the Office of Housing and Community Development’s three “set-aside” programs: housing rehabilitation, affordable housing and economic development. Historically, East Greenwich is eligible for between $150,000 and $200,000 in funds through the CDBG grants, funds that provide necessary money to community agencies that support and provide services to the low income population. The town has been applying for and receiving funds from the program for the last 40 years.
“Last year somehow the state lost track of $4 million, and towns that had applied for federal Fiscal Year 16 money only learned about a week and a half ago that they weren’t getting anything, because the money is gone,” said Marchant.
East Greenwich is one of 33 non-entitlement communities eligible for the program, non-entitlement meaning all Rhode Island towns with smaller populations than the six larger cities; Cranston, East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick and Woonsocket.
Aside from East Greenwich, many of the other non-entitlement communities including Cumberland, Barrington, Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Exeter, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Narragansett, New Shoreham, Newport, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Richmond, Smithfield, Tiverton, Warren, West Greenwich, Warwick, Westerly and Bristol are now facing the impacts of their projects not being funded.
After being made aware of the changes, the towns mentioned above wrote and signed a letter to Chief of Housing and Community Development Michael Tondra, objecting the proposed changes to the CDBG annual funding process. In the letter it was stated that several annual funding changes will now take place and HUD will no longer consider applications for public improvements such as streetscape or social services, adult education programs and ESL education.
“We are dismayed that public facilities and improvement projects and public services activities focused on low and moderate income communities are proposed to now be such low priorities that they are unlikely to be funded in the future,” the letter reads. “Much needed improvements to parks, roads, and municipal infrastructure, as well as social service programs are at stake. We have been receiving such funding since CDBG was created in 1972. Now, abruptly and with minimal notice and explanation, these critical projects and programs have been rendered practically ineligible.”
In addition, future applications related to affordable housing will be given highest priority and eligibility to apply for future annual grant rounds will be restricted to only the towns with the highest number of low and moderate income residents. However, according to a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo from South Kingstown Town Manager Stephen Alfred, no specific threshold or percentage was given for future eligibility criteria and the non-entitlement communities are unsure if they will be able to apply for funding rounds in the future.
“The changes being sought by OHCD could have major, negative implications for all 33 non-entitlement communities, including South Kingstown; however, the full extent of the ramifications of the proposed changes is unknown at this time,” Alfred wrote in his letter.
Locally, in April of 2016, the East Greenwich Town Council approved the CDBG applications for six projects including the East Greenwich Housing Authority to replace heating units throughout the public housing, Opportunities Unlimited requested funds to replace a walkway in front of a home that houses three women with developmental disabilities, Cornerstone Adult Services applied for funds to assist in providing adult day health services, Kingstown Crossing applied for money to provide intensive case management services for the formerly homeless and low income families who occupy the complex, Welcome House of South County is asking for funds to provide operations support for the state-wide emergency shelter, and London Bridge Learning Center in East Greenwich applied for $40,000 to assist in the sliding fee scale that helps low income families needing child care who do not qualify for department of human services assistance. With the recent announcement, none of the projects will be funded.
“These changes will have a significant, significant impact on the CDBG consortium,” said East Greenwich Town Manager Gayle Corrigan during last week’s town council meeting.
Corrigan also mentioned a $300,000 deficit in the CDBG Consortium due to the program changes, however; Marchant stated it was unclear where that amount came from.
“The financial analysis that Corrigan always refers to needs to be done,” he said.
Courtesy of East Greenwich Pendulum
September 18, 2018 | Frank Prosnitz
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