News & Event
Join PCF Development on November 29th at 11am for a short speaking ceremony followed by a tour of the first completed building in the Branch Blackstone development. This TOD property is within walking distance of the future Commuter Rail Station.
By Christine Dunn
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at 2:13 PM
Updated Nov 29, 2017 at 7:12 PM
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — Tenants will move in Friday to the first completed building in the 46-unit Branch Blackstone affordable housing development, a renovated three-family home at 39-41 Knight St.
The nonprofit Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corp. announced plans early last year for Branch Blackstone, which will include 29 homes in four new buildings under construction at 4-8 Branch St. in Pawtucket, by the Blackstone River. In addition, 17 affordable apartments at scattered sites in Pawtucket and Central Falls will be renovated as part of the $11.2-million project.
In addition to 39-41 Knight St., Central Falls, the other buildings to be rehabilitated are located in Pawtucket, at 39 John St., 36 Middle St., 181 Japonica St. and 138 Woodbine St.
According to PCF Development’s executive director, Linda Weisinger, monthly rents for the three-bedroom apartments at 39-41 Knight St. will be $776. The building was gutted and rebuilt in a modern redesign by Ed Wojcik Architects Ltd. Stand Corp. was the general contractor.
Overall, the Branch Blackstone development will include a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $600 to $950 a month.
Weisinger noted at Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony that affordable homes for working families are hard to come by in Central Falls, where 75 percent of the residents are renters. She said that, according to HousingWorks RI, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Central Falls is $983, which requires an annual income of at least $39,000 to be “affordable,” that is, consuming no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income.
In Central Falls, 60 percent of the renters are “cost-burdened,” meaning they are spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, Weisinger added.
Nearly 100 people attended the ceremony on Wednesday morning at Knight Street. Speakers included Weisinger, Joshua Giraldo, the chief of staff for the Central Falls mayor’s office; Dylan Zelazo, chief of staff at the Pawtucket mayor’s office, State Rep. Shelby Maldonado, State Sen. Elizabeth Crowley, Thomas McColgan of TD Bank, Rhode Island Housing Executive Director Barbara Fields and Rhode Island LISC Executive Director Jeanne Cola.
Several speakers noted that the GOP’s federal tax legislation now before Congress threatens programs that support affordable housing.
The largest part of Branch Blackstone, located along the Blackstone River at Branch Street in Pawtucket, is a formerly contaminated site that has been remediated. PCF Development is also working with the City of Pawtucket to create a public riverfront park at the end of East Street, adjacent to the new apartments on Branch Street. The park, formerly the site of illegal trash dumping, will have seating, a walking path, shade trees and new landscaping.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
By JACQUELYN MOOREHEAD, Valley Breeze Contributing Writer
CENTRAL FALLS – Carmen Catalan says she couldn’t be happier to be home for the holidays this year. She and her family settled into a newly renovated affordable housing unit at 39-41 Knight St. in Central Falls on Dec. 1.
During a Nov. 27 ribbon-cutting ceremony with more than 100 people in attendance, Catalan shed tears of happiness as she stood in her new kitchen, surrounded by family, friends and local officials.
Struggling to put into words how happy she was, Catalan pointed to the front bay window as the spot where she plans to put her Christmas tree.
“This unit is beautiful. I am very happy and feel excited about moving into our new home,” she said. “I feel that making this move is going to be helpful to my family because it is going to be affordable for my family. Having opportunities like affordable housing is needed for all families.”
The building is part of the nonprofit Pawtucket Central Falls (PCF) Development Corporation’s investment of $11 million in affordable housing in Pawtucket and Central Falls. First to be completed, the Knight Street home is part of a 46-unit Branch Blackstone Development. Scattered throughout Pawtucket and Central Falls, the project is made up of six sites, which with 29 homes, and 17 apartments.
Two othr recipient families at the Knight Street building did not to attend the ceremony, but Linda Weisinger, PCF Development Corporation’s executive director, spoke about their sentiments, saying both are grateful for the opportunity to have affordable housing.
“It takes more than housing to build and sustain strong communities,” Weisinger said. “Today we celebrate the three families who will make this their home. The families will move in and celebrate the holidays in their new home.”
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebian said PCF Development’s effort will help revitalize the city, and welcomed the new families home.
“I welcome the families to our communities and wish them a happy holiday in their new homes,” he said.
Though unable to attend, Central Falls Mayor James Diossa said in a statement he considers PCF Development a “trusted partner.”
“The transformation of 39 Knight St. is yet another demonstration of the work that we can accomplish together, creating opportunities for families to live in beautiful apartments that help revitalize our city,” he said.
Catalan’s first-floor home has refurbished wooden floors and new carpeting. All the fixtures are new and designed to complement each other, from the dark wooden cabinets in the kitchen to the shiny white tile in the bathroom. The attention to detail shone through, making the apartment and home appear brand new.
Emphasizing the affordability factor, Weisinger said renters at 39-41 Knight St. pay $776 in rent a month, substantially less than the average $983 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Central Falls. She said 75 percent of Central Falls residents are renters, and 60 percent are “cost-burdened.”
Rhode Island Housing Executive Director Barbara Fields said creating new homes is the best way to revitalize the community, because new homes mean new business and new jobs.
“Each investment leverages additional investment,” she said.
Fields said the building is symbolic of how Rhode Island Housing is putting federal low-income housing tax credit to work.
Additional buildings are located on Branch Street, East Street, Japonica Street, Middle Street, John Street and Woodbine Street in Pawtucket, scheduled for completion in 2018. Applications for leasing the remaining homes are still available through PCF Development and Maloney Properties.
Funding for Branch Blackstone Development comes from the cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, Housing Ministries of New England, LISC Rhode Island, National Equity Fund, Pawtucket Credit Union, Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency, Rhode Island Housing and TD Bank.
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
By Christine Dunn, Journal Staff Writer
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at 12:10PM, Updated Nov 30, 2017 at 12:26PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A playground for an elementary school in South Providence, downtown revitalization in Woonsocket, and a new continuing-education center in Central Falls were among the projects that won support in the first round of awards from the $10-million urban revitalization/blight relief fund approved by state voters in 2016 as part of the $50-million affordable housing bond.
The Rhode Island Housing Board of Commissioners on Thursday morning approved close to $3.8 million in awards to six different projects. The next round of awards is planned for March 2018. Known formally as the Acquisition and Revitalization Program, its aim is to stabilize neighborhoods by targeting foreclosed or blighted residential and commercial properties and vacant lots in need of redevelopment.
Although ARP financing is available statewide, 75 percent of the funding has been set aside for urban communities.
A request for proposals went out in July, and 18 proposals requesting $10.9 million were received. Nine of the proposals failed to meet requirements. The awards approved by the board Thursday are:
—- $1 million for the Dexter Adult Learning and Workforce Development Hub in Central Falls, in a vacant building at 934 Dexter St., formerly the Dexter Credit Union building. The hub is being developed by the City of Central Falls and Rhode Island College. The project, with an estimated cost of $5.8 million, is also being supported by state and federal historic tax credits, and EPA brownfields money.
— $975,000 for the Millrace District Creative Placemaking Initiative in downtown Woonsocket. Three vacant mills at 15 Island Place and 69 South Main St. are being redeveloped as housing and commercial space by NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, a nonprofit community development agency. There will be 58 live-work units and 6 commercial units. Rhode Island Housing said this award is for the commercial part of the project only.
— $612,484 for the Bailey Baxter Playspace Project. Working with the Nature Conservancy, the City of Providence will create a playground for the Bailey Elementary School at 65 Gordon Ave. and improve adjacent Baxter Park by redeveloping two vacant and blighted properties with lots at 56, 57, 58, 61, 62 and 66 Baxter Street. The total cost is $890,385, and the effort is also being financed by the City of Providence and Community Development Block Grant funds.
— $906,369 for Georgiaville Village Green, Smithfield’s first affordable housing development for families, at the intersection of Higgins Street and Whipple Avenue. There will be 42 apartments built for households earning less than 60 percent of area median income. It is an $11-million development by Coventry Housing Associates Corp. and Gemini Housing Corp.
— $146,727 for SWAP Inc. for 136 Rugby St., Providence.; and
— $153,528 for SWAP Inc. for 44 Lillian Ave., Providence. SWAP (Stop Wasting Abandoned Properties) will develop two-family homes on two vacant lots. Each house will include a three-bedroom homeownership apartment and a two-bedroom rental unit.
By Joseph Fitzgerald / firstname.lastname@example.org
WOONSOCKET — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”
The Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee and NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley were doing their part to answer that question Saturday at St. James Baptist Church on South Main Street, where more than 30 volunteers young and old kicked off a year-long service project repurposing old newspaper boxes into mini-food pantries called Blessing Boxes.
The concept is simple. The box is a miniature food pantry – receiving items from those who want to donate, and offering it to those who need them.
This small-scale charity movement is starting to take hold in neighborhoods across the country, including Woonsocket, where volunteers representing the Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee, St. James Baptist Church, NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, Americorps and Citizens Bank spent most of Saturday afternoon turning 11 newspaper boxes donated by The Call/Times into Blessing Boxes to be placed at local churches and businesses in Woonsocket to provide food and supplies to anyone in need.
Carol Wilson-Allen, secretary of the Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee, said committee members, along with Margaux Morisseau, director of community engagement at NeighborWorks, got the idea for the service project after seeing a news story about a similar effort in Texas.
“This is something people are doing all across the country and we thought it would be a great service project for this year’s MLK weekend celebration,” said Wilson-Allen, adding the boxes will ensure that homeless and other food insecure individuals have access to food at all times of the day, every day.
The project fits perfectly the theme of this year’s celebration – “What are you doing for others?” – which recognizes the need to come together as a community to support one another, and as a prelude to Monday’s MLK Day of Service, the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service.
“This will help meet the needs of our community,” said Wilson-Allen. “The importance of serving others is what Dr. King’s message was all about.”
The basement cafeteria of St. James Baptist Church was a beehive of activity where volunteers scrubbed the boxes clean and painted them blue and green. Each box will look the same with a stenciled design depicting a maple tree and apples.
“The design stencils were made by Riverzedge Arts to convey the idea of a giving tree,” says Morriseau, who was able to recruit several folks from NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley – including Execuitve Director Joe Garlick – to volunteer on Saturday.
NWBRV is a non-profit community development corporation that works with residents, businesses, neighborhood institutions, partners, and communities to enrich neighborhood life and make affordable housing opportunities available throughout Northern Rhode Island.
“It’s a beautiful idea,” says Irene Davis, a NWBRV employee for 22 years and a Woonsocket resident for more than 30 years.
After the boxes are painted and dry, they will be stocked with bottles of water, granola bars, other ready-to-eat foods, toiletries and other needed supplies. Each of the re-purposed newspaper boxes will be “adopted” by local churches, businesses and social service organizations, whose congregations and staff will keep the boxes filled all year long.
Five of the 11 boxes have already been adopted by St. James Baptist Church, 30 South Main St.; Calvary Worship Center, 120 Prospect Street; Community Care Alliance, 800 Clinton St.; Riverzedge Arts, 196 2nd Avenue; and Lot-O-Laundry, 150 North Main St.
The Woonsocket Martin Luther King Community Committee is recruiting other organizations, businesses and churches to adopt a Blessing Box and to help out with donations of ready-to-eat foods, drinks and toiletries. Donations can be dropped off at St. James Church, 30 South Main St.
“It is better to give than receive,” said Thomas Gray, a committee member and deacon at St. James Baptist Church. “This service project that is part of the MLK weekend this year gives us all a chance to give throughout the year. We hope the community comes out strong to support the Blessing Boxes that will ensure that no one in our city goes hungry.”
The Blessing Box project is part of the 17th annual Woonsocket MLK Celebration, which kicked off Friday with the Hinson Scholarship Dinner at the Millrace Event Space on South Main Street. Proceeds from the dinner will support two scholarships for high school seniors who have made strong contributions to the community.
The celebration continues today with an interfaith workshop service at 3 p.m. at St. James Baptist Church, and ends Monday with the annual Memorial Service at the MLK Sculpture Garden at the intersection of South Main Street and mason Street. A reception will follow at St. James Baptist Church.
“Our annual MLK weekend gives everyone a chance to be involved,” said committee member Emma Dandy. “It really shows the unity that is here in our community.”
There are also Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events planned in Pawtucket and Central Falls on Monday, including:
- Letter from Birmingham City Jail: Mixed Magic Theatre, 560 Mineral Spring Ave., Pawtucket. 2 p.m. Dramatic performance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 response to Southern religious leaders who objected to his nonviolent activism. Pay what you can. Light refreshments afterward.
- Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa and the City of Central Falls Martin Luther King Jr. Day event from 6-7 p.m. at Chikondi Café, 590 Dexter Street. The celebration will feature Ricardo Pitts-Wiley and the Mixed Magic Theatre with renditions of various MLK speeches. The Cafe, which opened less than a year ago, was named chikondi which means ‘love’ in African dialects.
Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7
Courtesy of Pawtucket Times
Posted Oct 11, 2017 at 12:01 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For families with household incomes below $50,000, the improving housing market in 2016 meant rising prices, and fewer homes and apartments they can afford to rent or buy, according to a new report from HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University.
The report found that in 2016, only two communities, Central Falls and Providence (not counting the East Side) offered “homes for sale that fit a household budget of under $50,000.”
For renters, there was no municipality in the state where the average cost of a two-bedroom rental apartment was affordable on a household income of $30,934, the median income for Rhode Island renters.
Even for renters earning less than $50,000, there were just six communities where the average rent price was “affordable:” Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence (without the East Side) and Woonsocket.
Housing is deemed “affordable” if housing costs consume no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income.
“Simply put, Rhode Island needs more housing,” said Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. “The real estate market is booming right now, and that means housing prices are rising — which puts pressure on families who are already struggling to get by. The good news is that we have already begun taking steps to increase production, and the $50 million housing bond that passed last year is a start.”
As the “affordability gap” grew, there was also a jump in the number of foreclosures last year. There were 1,561 foreclosure deeds issued in the Ocean State in 2016, an increase of 32 percent compared with 2015, according to the 2017 Housing Fact Book.
In addition, “Rhode Island’s rate of seriously delinquent loans is still among the highest in the United States, ranking ninth in the fourth quarter of 2016,” the report added.
The Fact Book, an annual report from HousingWorks RI, tracks affordability and other housing issues across the state. It was scheduled for release Wednesday at HousingWorks’ annual luncheon, which this year includes a morning panel discussion “offering an in-depth look at the numbers.” HousingWorks RI is a nonprofit research group that became part of Roger Williams University in 2014.
The Fact Book also tracked an increase in 2016 in building permits, which rose by 23 percent to 1,226 permits. But this level is still far below projected needs.
“As noted in the Projecting Future Housing Needs Report (2016), commissioned by Rhode Island Housing, over the next 10 years there is an anticipated need for more than 34,000 new homes,” the Fact Book added, and “demand is for more than 27,000 of those to be multifamily and able to serve households with incomes less than 80 percent of area median income ($40,400 to $68,000 for households of one to four across the state).”
But many communities still have far to go in reaching the state-mandated goal of having 10 percent of their housing stock be long-term, deed-restricted affordable housing, the report added. Just five communities have met the goal: Central Falls, Newport, New Shoreham, Providence and Woonsocket.
Communities with less than 3 percent include: Barrington (2.66), Charlestown (2.86), Exeter (2.36), Foster (2.05), Glocester (2.23), Little Compton (0.56 percent), Portsmouth (2.83), Richmond (1.89), Scituate (0.85), and West Greenwich (1.41). However, statewide, the average is up to 8.29 percent.
Rhode Island continues to have an exceptionally low homeownership rate, particularly for communities of color.
“At 60 percent, Rhode Island has the lowest rate of homeownership among the six New England states, and ranks 46th nationally,” the report added. “Across race and ethnicity, homeownership rates in Rhode Island show great disparity. White residents have a homeownership rate of 65 percent, while Latino, Black and Asian household rates are 28 percent, 31 percent and 50 percent, respectively.”
R.I. housing costs, 2016
Median house price: $239,900
Income needed to afford this: $68,065
Average two-bedroom rent: $1,288
Income needed to afford this: $51,520
SOURCE: 2017 HOUSING FACT BOOK
Career changers are common in today’s workforce. Those switching industries bring broad perspectives and fresh skill sets to new fields but can make the modern-day corporate ladder look more like a winding road at times.
But Jeanne Cola is lucky enough to have found her lifelong career at her very first job, at Citizens Bank. She started work there as a student, was exposed to all areas of banking through training and stayed for 25 years, learning how to create mortgage products for clients with low incomes along the way.
“I only left as the opportunity with LISC [Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corp.] would allow me more influence,” said Cola, who has been executive director of the organization, which helps get affordable housing and other projects off the ground within the state’s most distressed neighborhoods, for six years. “It was about moving into corporate banking, only from a community perspective. I could be deeply engaged in change for residents and create opportunities to make their lives better.”
A community-development financial institution, LISC opened its Rhode Island office in 1991. Its goal is to build healthy neighborhoods by linking local leaders and organizations with resources to improve the quality of life. With a national corporation behind it, Rhode Island LISC is able to open up access to resources residents wouldn’t otherwise have – including public and private funding in the form of loans, grants and equity investments – for local projects.
“Those first dollars that come in allow millions to flow in after,” said Cola. “That is what really influences that change. That’s where, in my opinion, you see the real influence of LISC due to its impact in the early stages, with early investments. But we have to operate in a fiscally responsible way to have more dollars to lend out.”
Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center in Providence, which serves households with low incomes, is an LISC project. Cola’s group first assisted in making the space appropriate for child care with its Child Care Facilities Fund, adding in grant money, a loan to refinance the state-licensed facility’s mortgage at a lower rate, assisted in a renovation for program expansion and refinancing with more favorable terms. According to its website, LISC has invested more than $850,000 at Beautiful Beginnings, which serves more than 100 children and their families with Early Head Start and other learning initiatives.
“Our goal is to provide what they need where a bank might not be able to,” said Cola. “So, we can be a catalytic influence.”
Problem-solving is a big part of Cola’s role at LISC, along with her team. She is tasked with finding creative solutions. Sometimes this means careful consideration of an end user’s individual situation and adopting a different approach than originally planned. But due to LISC’s unique business model, she always has the flexibility needed to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis.
“If there is a project that will advance the LISC mission, then Jeanne will move mountains to get it done,” said Joseph Silva, senior vice president of commercial lending at Pawtucket Credit Union and chair of the LISC Local Advisory Committee.
Finding those new ways to accomplish things was a skill Cola had practiced regularly in banking. But in areas of relationship-building and fundraising, the nonprofit world took a bit of adjustment on her part.
She had strong external community relationships from her former position, connections that were honed for more than two decades. Those collaborations continued when she came to LISC, but forging new, internal relationships within LISC took time, she said. Reporting to and getting to know members of the LISC Local Advisory Committee and how they all worked together was more uncharted territory. Then, when it came to fundraising, she had to learn fast. “A funder relationship is different. Now [at LISC], I was the fundee.” But Cola saw the investment in relationships and advisory-committee collaborations not as challenges, but as opportunities to grow as a leader.
Central Falls Neighborhood Health Station is one of LISC’s latest collaborations.
Blackstone Valley Community Health Care is building a $14.5 million, 47,000-square-foot health center that will create more than 80 permanent jobs and serve up to 84 percent of Central Falls residents. LISC, recognizing the value in the center reducing health disparities, is financing $12.56 million via its Healthy Futures Fund, which offers better terms and rates than traditional financing.
Cola will continue to help every community in Rhode Island have choices in opportunities, actively searching out partners to make that happen, supporting nonprofits and their leaders who are on the front lines. She noted that the state needs 3,400 new housing units annually over the next 10 years, according to Rhode Island Housing Authority, to remedy the housing crisis here. She wants folks to know that transformations take time, and that LISC sees its work not as stand-alone transactions, but as vibrant transformations.
“I love my job,” said Cola. “I don’t know if you can tell.”
Courtesy of Providence Business News
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