News & Event
Pleased by the favorable reception the Planning Board gave the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing development on May 9, the members of the Block Island Housing Board turned toward implementing that project and others at their May 15 meeting.
“We were thrilled with the Planning Board's support, and look forward to their decision,” Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas said. The five-home subdivision off Cooneymus Road has been the target of neighbors' objections throughout the permitting process.
Once the Planning Board issues a decision — expected at its June meeting — the next pending issue will be preparing Requests for Proposals for construction, Pappas told the Housing Board. She added that Town Manager Ed Roberge has volunteered to help, drawing on his expertise in developing RFPs.
An infrastructure RFP comes first, and will include the access road, drainage and septic systems, wells, water lines and other underground utilities.
“We know the road standards,” Pappas continued, referring to engineering protocols for the right of way that will serve the new homes and provide a throughway to abutting properties. The septic system design is done and awaiting approval by the state. Member John Spier advised including the final landscaping in the infrastructure RFP, to ensure that the first site work will not have to be redone at the end. Landscape design has been one of the sticking points with the abutting property owners.
Whether the new homes will use modular or stick-built construction is also yet to be determined. Pappas said she will follow up with a modular home builder in Connecticut, and Spier said he will keep in contact with the project's architect, Frank Karpowicz.
Consulting on Merck project
The Housing Board is working with island property owner Josie Merck on the sale of two existing homes, converting them to affordable housing units in the process. Kim Gaffett represented Merck at the meeting to discuss agreements and covenants that will apply to those homes. The homes will be occupied by the current tenants.
“It's well in Joe [Priestley]'s hands,” Gaffett said, referring to Merck's attorney; “he has all the templates.” Gaffett said some “site-specific” conditions may be added, such as limiting mowing of open space and agreements to share maintenance costs of a well and an access road.
Other provisions could establish precedents for future affordable housing projects on the island: Requiring a homeowners' association be created — even for a two-unit development — with a member of the Housing Board serving as an “arbitrator” between the owners, in Spier's phrase; and allowing the owners' children to inherit the property, with the original covenants and conditions continuing to apply.
“We will say the kids can inherit unless told otherwise,” said Gaffett.
Pappas replied that while the Housing Board hasn't taken a position on inheritance policies, “The point is to keep the house in the affordable pool in perpetuity.”
“That's what we're striving for,” Gaffett said. “We're still optimistic that the details will all work out.” Merck's proposal will go before the Planning Board in June.
The Housing Board commented briefly on two other housing matters. Spier said of a parcel recently acquired from the Ball-O'Brien families, “We'll decide what we want to do, and then find out what we can do.”
Pappas replied that she was “still hoping for a mix of homeownership and rental housing” on that parcel, which is adjacent to the E. Searles Ball rental apartments on West Side Road. Spier noted that “homeownership tends to produce a better neighborhood than just rental.”
Pappas also reported that Town Manager Roberge had recently convened a meeting to talk about housing. “Obviously, the town is very interested in housing issues,” she said, noting the vote at the Financial Town Meeting to issue bonds to construct housing for town employees on the Thomas property across High Street from the Block Island School.
However, the Thomas property is not an affordable housing project as described now, she said.
Courtesy of The Block Island Times
The Block Island Housing Board is seeking to expand the affordable housing applicant pool on Block Island. In order to do so the board needs to do something that might seem counterintuitive; raising the island’s median income bracket. Increasing the medium income limit could provide more people on the island with the opportunity to apply for affordable housing.
Speaking at the Town Council’s August 1 informational exchange work session, Housing Board Chair Cindy Pappas said expanding the applicant pool would mean regrouping Block Island in the same income limit category as the towns of Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth. She noted that the median income limit for Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth is higher than Block Island — currently grouped with the towns of Hopkinton and Westerly — which have lower income limits.
According to the State of Rhode Island’s median income limit chart for 2017, regrouping Block Island with Newport, Middletown, and Portsmouth would raise the town’s income limit for, as an example, a married couple from $77,100 to $89,950. Anyone making more than that would not be eligible for the town’s affordable housing units.
Pappas said the move “would give us greater flexibility for who could qualify for affordable housing. We want to give service people, like, for example, teachers and police officers, the ability to qualify for an affordable housing lottery. So we’re looking for a little more flexibility by increasing the limit on the median income for people who are allowed to apply for these houses.”
As a result of the Housing Board’s request, the Town Council is sending a resolution to the state legislature stating the town’s interest in regrouping Block Island with Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth.
“We’re hoping there will be an opportunity to lobby our representatives, and have letters written, for this request,” said Pappas.
Second Warden André Boudreau, who chaired the meeting in the absence of First Warden Ken Lacoste, said it was nice speaking with the Housing Board “face-to-face.” Boudreau and the Council stressed the importance of fostering a dialogue between the town’s various boards and departments.
“How can we help?” asked Councilor Sven Risom, who noted that knowing the Housing Board’s long-term goals would aid the Town Council in getting in alignment with the board. Risom said “the goal of the community” is to address the island’s housing needs, which has been a priority for the current Town Council.
Pappas provided the Town Council with an update concerning the Housing Board’s projects, including its Cherry Hill Lane project, and a newer project with the Ocean View Foundation. The OVF gifted the Housing Board with two single-family dwellings off of West Side Road, which are being offered for purchase to its tenants.
“We’re looking for a dialogue, and an ongoing collaboration, between the Housing Board, the Town Council, and the BIED board,” said Pappas, referring to the Block Island Economic Development board, which oversees the West Side 20 affordable housing units. “The more voices at the table the better.”
Pappas said, “To recap, as you all know, we’re on the verge of getting our Request for Proposals together” for the Cherry Hill Lane project. “The Town Manager has been invaluable in giving us good guidance and direction on shaping that RFP — and we’re appreciative of the assistance from the Planning and Zoning boards. So we’re very excited about that project.”
The process for the project “has taken longer than we would have liked,” she said. “It’s taken a long time, but we’re hoping it’s going to finish strong, and finish quickly.”
Pappas told the Council her board was “approached by the Ocean View Foundation, and Josie Merck, their director, with an extremely generous proposal” to acquire a parcel. “She had personally created two affordable housing units on the west side, which she owns personally, and had rented for many years at affordable rates.”
“So out of the generosity of the Ocean View Foundation, and Josie Merck, we will now have two more affordable units,” said Pappas.
Boudreau was complimentary of the Housing Board’s efforts, and said, “It seems like you guys do all of this stuff under the radar. It’s exciting to see a board like yours accomplish what it has. You’re an asset to the town.”
The Town Council then discussed what could be next in solving housing needs, touching on the need for more rental units, and a shift away from ownership units. Pappas said rentals are critical to the island, and noted that the Senior Advisory Committee is focused on creating housing for people who want to “age in place.”
“I see rental units being a huge answer to that, because if we had affordable rentals, if we had a few available, we might have people that are willing to be home-care givers,” said Pappas. “Having that rental pool just opens up another avenue for people to live here on a year-round basis.”
Pappas said town-owned land might be more attainable than looking at other property for a solution to the island’s housing dilemma. “The town has some interesting little parcels of land that it owns” that could be beneficial to the housing initiative. “I’m a firm believer that we’re going to solve the housing issue one home at a time.”
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
2200 Southwood Drive, Nashua, NH
We invite you to be a part of the second New England Lead Conference taking place on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 in Nashua, NH. Hosted by the New England Lead Coordinating Committee, the conference will include a variety of educational sessions focusing on lead prevention, policy, model programs, outreach, the EPA’s Renovation, Remodeling and Repair Rule (RRP), lead abatement, compliance, and the economics of lead poisoning.
Read more >
October 4, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
The Narragansett Times: Dziobek steps down as Welcome House director
By KENDRA GRAVELLE Sep 29, 2017
SOUTH KINGSTOWN—When Joseph Dziobek accepted the position of executive director of Welcome House of South County nearly three years ago, he had expected the job would make for a simple transition into retirement.
But what was intended as a part-time gig turned into much more than that for Dziobek, who this week left his post.
“It’s been a challenge,” said Dziobek, whose last day on the job was Monday. “And it’s been very satisfying—I feel very close to the people who have been a part of it.”
Dziobek, 66, took the job at Welcome House after retiring from his career as CEO of Fellowship Health Resources. He said he intended only to stay for two or three years.
October 4, 2017 in Local Interest
Final Days to Register: 2017 Housing Fact Book Release
Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Luncheon: 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Location: Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin Street, Providence RI
October 3, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
Rhode Island College: The Defamation Experience
Monday, October 30, 2017
5:00PM - Doors Open
6:00PM - Performance
SPONSORED BY: THE DIVISION OF COMMUNITY EQUITY AND DIVERSITY AND THE DIVISION OF STUDENT SUCCESS
THE PLAY * THE DELIBERATION * THE DISCUSSION
September 27, 2017 in Events, Local Interest
NLIHC: Sign Letters to Support Equitable Housing Recovery after Devastating Hurricanes
Help ensure that low income people and neighborhoods are treated fairly after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. A broad coalition of national, state, and local organizations is calling on Congress, FEMA, and HUD to ensure that the federal response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria is complete and equitable for everyone, especially families and individuals with the lowest incomes who are often the hardest hit by disasters and have the fewest resources to recover afterwards.
September 27, 2017 in Local Interest, National News
Roger Williams University: Social Justice Month Events
Thursday, Oct 19
Mary Tefft White Center
How Housing Works
4:00pm – 6:00pm
Sponsored by Housing Works RI and RWU Chief Diversity Officer
Keywords: socioeconomic status, race, jobs, housing, equity
Workshop with Brenda Clement, Director of Housing Works Rhode Island and Ame Lambert, RWU Chief Diversity Officer.
An overview of housing issues in Rhode Island and connections to the larger social justice agenda.
September 25, 2017 in Local Interest
Providence Journal: People on the move for the week of Sept. 17
Posted Sep 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Updated Sep 13, 2017 at 5:34 PM
Rhode Island LISC
Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corportation has welcomed two new employees. Jeremiah O’Grady, of Lincoln, joined LISC as program officer after spending more than 12 years at ONE Neighborhood Builders as real estate project manager and director of asset management and operations.
Liz Klinkenberg, of Warwick, was hired as communications director. She brings more than 15 years of public relations experience to her new position, including work for The Miami Herald and The Providence Journal.
The Providence American: Reed Announces $300k in Community Development Grants for NeighborWorks Affiliates
WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to promote healthy, vibrant neighborhoods across Rhode Island, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced an additional $300,000 in federal funding for three Rhode Island-based affiliates of NeighborWorks America (NeighborWorks). These federal funds will help NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, ONE Neighborhood Builders, and West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation to provide affordable housing opportunities, generate job growth, and enhance economic stability for working families. Earlier this year, Senator Reed also helped to secure over $750,000 in federal funding for NeighborWorks affiliates in Rhode Island, bringing total NeighborWorks investment in the state to above $1 million for fiscal year 2017.
September 21, 2017 in Federal News, Local Interest
The Providence American: Providence Unveils PVD Gives Donation Station
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined members of the City Council, public safety officials, and community leaders who have been named to the PVD Gives commission for the unveiling of the City’s first Donation Station at Kennedy Plaza. The retrofitted parking meter is one of ten stations that will be installed across the city to collect funds that will support local organizations that provide housing and services to those in need.
“PVD Gives and the new Donation Stations make it easier to give back,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “Our collective generosity can make all the difference in the lives of those striving to get back on their feet. I encourage visitors and residents to chip in and be part of the solution.”
September 21, 2017 in Local Interest
Providence Journal: Report: New England losing 65 acres of forestland per day
By Steve LeBlanc / Associated Press
Posted Sep 19, 2017 at 11:21 AM
Updated Sep 19, 2017 at 11:21 AM
BOSTON — New England has been losing forestland to development at a rate of 65 acres per day — a loss that comes at a time when public funding for preservation of open land, both state and federal, has also been on the decline in all six states.
That’s the conclusion of a report released Tuesday by the Harvard Forest, a research institute of Harvard University.
The study found public funding for land conservation in New England dropped by half between 2008 and 2014 to $62 million per year, slightly lower than 2004 levels.
By: Cassius Shuman, Friday, 10/20/17
With the current travails of Edward Roberge, the Town Council appointed Town Manager, whose negotiations are on hold until he finds housing on Block Island, the Town of New Shoreham is facing what Town Councilor Chris Willi says is a “critical issue” that should be addressed by providing a “housing stipend.” (Roberge told The Block Island Times on Wednesday that he feels he’s getting closer to finding housing.)
“Securing any credentialed employee, or employees in general, for any position in the private or public sector requires housing,” said Willi. “It’s obviously much harder here, so it is critical to retain someone. Case in point; look at the (Block Island) Medical Center and Dr. (Mark) Clark — no different.”
The Town Council appointed Roberge by unanimous vote as its new Town Manager on Sept. 25. The problem is Roberge has been unable to conclude negotiations with the town and move into office at Town Hall because he has not secured housing; a dilemma that the town and many of its hires have been burdened with in the past.
Roberge, who will be relocating from Bow, New Hampshire, travelled to the island on Oct. 12 to look for housing. Willi said Councilor André Boudreau has been assisting Roberge with his search. “André has been shepherding this part along and I believe it’s very close to being resolved.”
“Obviously Mr. Roberge cannot commit to a contract without housing — call it part of a salary or assistance,” said Willi. “Any Town Manager would consider housing costs before agreeing to a salary.” Willi said “availability” and “cost” are the main issues impacting Roberge’s housing search.
Willi said the town shouldn’t necessarily be in this position, and the wounds may be self-inflicted. “The reality is the entire Town Council voted (during an April 6, 2016 meeting) to have the Large Capital Asset Strategy group look at an approach for employee housing, and did not endorse Mr. Warfel’s suggestion,” which included offering a housing stipend. Chris Warfel served as Councilor on the previous Town Council.
The minutes from that meeting reflect Willi’s assertions, and note that First Warden Ken Lacoste believed at the time that “the existing compensation and benefit line are adequate to cover salary and housing.”
Second Warden Norris Pike, who also served on the previous Town Council and voted no on a housing stipend, said he feels that providing a stipend would open Pandora’s Box. “I was opposed to the housing stipend,” he said. “If we were to propose a housing stipend for every town employee we would have to take it to the Financial Town Meeting. Providing a housing stipend doesn’t make a lot of sense. The money could be negotiated into the Town Manager’s contract instead of providing a stipend.”
When asked her response to Willi’s comments, Councilor Martha Ball said, “Thank you for providing me the opportunity, but I will not dignify a totally inappropriate Facebook post with a response. We are in negotiations, it is beyond irresponsible to play that out in the press. Bringing those negotiations to a positive conclusion is my priority right now.”
Willi said that it’s water under the bridge. “We need to consider our town budget and compare mainland costs to island costs, taking into consideration availability as a factor and determine the (housing) stipend. I couldn’t possibly suggest a number until I see the numbers.”
“The compensation and benefit line would obviously give consideration to housing costs. We needed to go the extra step, in my opinion, and actually have the housing options available before we advertise or hire someone,” said Willi. “This could have been done through the bid process in advance. Mr. Warfel’s suggestion was a good one.”
Willi noted that the town has “programs in place that need enforcement. Then we can assess moving forward” on this housing issue. “Seasonal housing is as big an issue as year round housing. We have done an excellent job with affordable home projects like the one I live in, but more is clearly needed.”
Pike said the town needs to come up with a way to provide “year-round apartments, first for teachers, then police officers, and town employees, if needed.” The housing the town provides “should be secure and affordable. I think we have the land and the ability to do something like that. The rent would offset the cost.”
Update from Roberge
Roberge told The Times that he and his wife had a “short, but productive visit” on Block Island on Thursday, Oct. 12. “While options are limited, we do feel we are getting closer to some possibilities that could work,” said Roberge, who noted that he took the 9 a.m. ferry to the island and departed at 3 p.m. “We’re still working out the length of term of the rental with the property owners.”
“We looked at three properties, as well as quick ride-bys on several possibilities,” said Roberge. “First Warden Lacoste and Councilor Boudreau joined us in visiting the properties. Councilor Ball met us at the ferry to say hello and welcome my wife to the island. That was very nice.”
Pike said there appears to be “some possibilities” for housing for the new Town Manager. “I think Ken and André have located a couple of houses, so it’s not a crisis.”
As for the boat ride during what were adverse conditions last Thursday, Roberge said, “The boat ride was a little bumpy, but we made it out and back just fine. It ended up being a beautiful day. We love to be out on the water.”
Courtesy of The Block Island Times
The Ocean View Foundation is converting its two rental properties into affordable housing units. The non-profit is splitting a minor subdivision located off Cooneymus Road into two separate lots to establishing two single-family dwellings that will go toward the island’s affordable housing inventory.
New Shoreham Building Official Marc Tillson explained to The Times that the property contained “one old home, and a new home. The Ocean View Foundation wants to now refurbish the old building,” and split the lot into two separate lots that will be “dedicated to the island’s affordable housing initiative. It’s a win-win.”
“They’re changing the use of the property for that purpose,” said Tillson. “There will be two brand new homes to go toward the 10 percent of the island’s affordable housing” inventory. The project is being presented as a joint venture between the Ocean View Foundation and the Block Island Housing Board, which was recently granted approval for its five-dwelling Cherry Hill Lane development that includes three three-bedroom homes and two two-bedroom homes priced under $250,000.
The difference with the OVF’s project is the Foundation has been renting to two tenants on the property for several years who will have the right of first refusal for purchasing the dwelling they currently occupy. If the tenants opt not to purchase the properties, the Housing Board will sell them through the affordable housing lottery system. The OVF will also gift the properties to the Housing Board at no cost, with the net proceeds from the sale of the homes going to the OVF.
The project was granted a unanimous (5-0) favorable ruling at the Planning Board’s meeting on July 11, with board member John Spier recused, as he is a member of the Housing Board. The project now goes before the Zoning Board of Review for hearings.
Thomas Property zoning amendment
In other news, the Planning Board heard Town Manager Ed Roberge’s request to amend the town’s zoning ordinance to facilitate construction on the Thomas Property. Per authorization of the community at the May Financial Town Meeting, the town intends to construct a single-family dwelling, and repurpose the Thomas House into rental units for town-employee housing. The property is on High Street, located opposite the Block Island School.
As a result, the zoning ordinance needs to be revised to permit more than one kitchen within the repurposed building’s footprint. At its June meeting, the Town Council directed Roberge to explore amending Zoning Ordinance section 513 on Accessory apartments, or look into a community services zoning district comprising the Faulkner Property, the Thomas Property, the Block Island School, and the Block Island Medical Center. These parcels are located near the intersection of High Street and Payne Road.
Roberge broached those subjects with the Planning Board, which seemed to be in general agreement, but which also urged caution in moving too hastily.
Board member Sven Risom noted that “you can’t put more than two kitchens” on the Thomas Property, as it is inhabited by a duplex. Risom, who has been spearheading the project as a Town Councilor, said he thought the 513 should be amended to note that it is “based on town property” that allowed rental units to be built, while providing for greater flexibility for creating affordable housing projects.
Spier said that although he was “in favor of housing,” he thought the board should “look at the bigger picture” when attempting to amend the ordinance. “When amending the ordinance you need to look at the ramifications.” He said these types of projects are near residents who should have some protections, or at least have a say in the review process.
“Where does the density stop — in a residential neighborhood?” asked Spier, who noted that it should be “appropriate development,” and he would be concerned if he was a homeowner living in an area where this type of development was being proposed.
Roberge noted that, “It’s a complex issue,” while agreeing with Risom, and Spier. He said the amended ordinance should note that it’s for appropriate development, and be flexible.
The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for August 8 at 7 p.m.
After its initial housing proposal was met with criticism from some members of the public, the New Shoreham Town Council went back to the drawing board and is now proposing that the 2.5-acre Thomas property be used for a community housing campus consisting of two separate dwellings that would house a total of seven town employees. The estimated cost for the project is about $1.5 million.
The new proposal, which was made by Councilor Sven Risom, comes a few weeks after Town Manager Ed Roberge proposed several options for town employee housing, including the purchase of an existing market-ready residential property for $1.125 million.
The Town Community Housing project that was proposed at a special Town Council work session on April 11 would involve renovations of the Thomas property at a cost of about $500,000 to create a building with six rental rooms and six bathrooms. Those rooms would accommodate police officers, and staff from the Block Island Medical Center and Block Island School.
Risom said the town would also construct a three-bedroom, two-bathroom prefab, or modular home, on the southeast corner of the property to house a senior town employee. That dwelling would cost about $800,000 to $900,000. Each of the dwellings would connect to municipal water and sewer.
“I think we have to be very respectful of the island, and respectful of many people on the island who want housing, but cannot find housing,” said Risom. “I think by offering a number of units we are helping the island as a whole; rather than just one group.”
Risom noted that if the project is approved by the taxpayers at the Financial Town Meeting on May 7, the Town Council would direct the Town Manager to complete construction for occupancy by the summer of 2019. The venture would also entail approving a new zoning ordinance for permitted use of dormitory-style dwellings for future renovation projects.
“I think this is a direction that I find exciting that would meet a lot of the Block Island current housing needs, and not pre-empt any longer-term planning issues,” said Risom. “I very intentionally tried to fit this within the confines of a long-term master housing plan.”
Second Warden André Boudreau asked Town Clerk Millie McGinnes if the town would have any problems using the Thomas property due to Violette Connolly’s deed restrictions. McGinnes said she didn’t think there would be. Roberge said that a “legal review” of the Thomas property would be conducted.
Councilor Martha Ball questioned the land use, involving the two units currently residing on the Thomas property. “This proposal looks like it would simply be reconfiguring two units to keep status quo on that property,” she said. “The existing house would turn into, not a duplex, anymore, and the new house would be a single-family home. Is that correct?”
“Yes, there are two units existing on a non-conforming lot,” said Roberge, noting that the “existing ranch house, or duplex would need to be converted into one dwelling to be fully compliant.”
“I don’t know the zoning anymore,” said Ball, who asked if there was enough land on the property to accommodate the two rental dwellings, to which Building Clerk Jenn Brady said, “Yes.”
Town Building Official Marc Tillson said there is no issue with the size of the lot. “The lot is 2.5 acres,” he said. “When you figure out the maximum lot building coverage you have about 8,000 plus square feet.”
“The issue, as Ed has pointed out, is that you have a prior existing non-conforming use of two dwelling units on one lot,” noted Tillson. “What the town would have to do is make application to the Zoning Board to relocate the non-conforming use on that property. So, you would take one of the units out of the Thomas house, and then relocate it on the property to construct a new single-family dwelling.”
Councilor Chris Willi asked why the goal isn’t to create three dwellings on the property using a $1.5 million budget.
“The issue is double density,” said Risom. “You can only put two units on that land. The minute you want to put more dwellings on that lot you’re going down the affordable housing road — then you get into who can apply, and other issues, which is a whole other discussion.”
Resident Ray Torrey, who is a member of the Block Island Health Services Board, said the bones of the Thomas house are good. “It doesn’t need a new foundation,” he said. The Medical Center has been housing residents and students in the Thomas house.
First Warden Ken Lacoste said the Town Council received letters containing advice about the housing situation from residents Socha Cohen, Steve McQueeny, and Doug Michel. They each referenced use of the Thomas or Faulkner properties to solve the island’s housing need.
Risom said his desire with conjuring the project “was to find a way to cover the debt service with enough people renting rooms. I don’t know if we can do that, but I think we can get pretty close.”
“This is the easy part,” Risom told The Block Island Times after the meeting. “The hard part is making it happen.”
The Town Council will discuss the Community Housing project at its April 18 meeting when it adopts the warrant for the Financial Town Meeting, which is scheduled for May 7.
Thu, 04/12/2018 - 9:00pm
Category: Opinion, Letters
To the Editor:
I'd like to weigh in on the housing issue for the town manager. We have to realize that a few key positions on the island in the 21st century need to be filled by persons with skills not commonly found on the island and some of these positions have a fairly high turnover rate. At present, there are two such positions on the island: The doctor and the town manager.
We all know that our housing stock is grossly overpriced due to pressure from people from “away” looking for the perfect summer house. Therefore, in order to attract applicants with the needed credentials, we need to either grossly overpay them so that they can compete in securing housing in the open market, or provide such housing as part of the employment package. Such housing, of course, is to be terminated when the party departs the island. We already supply a fine residence for the doctor.
So how do we accomplish this without breaking the bank? Our costs for building on the island are astronomical for two basic reasons: 1) The price of the building lot, and 2) the cost per square foot to construct a house, given The Block Island Factor.
It stands to reason that if a lot can be obtained at no additional cost to the taxpayer then we are way ahead of the game. At present, the town has two outstanding lots that could be used: 1) the grossly under-managed Thomas property across from the school, which could easily accommodate two additional dwelling units in addition to the mostly unoccupied and forlorn existing house (which has a legal apartment). 2) The Faulkner property south of the school and Medical Center.
While we all would like to provide work for island contractors, experience has shown that it is impossible to compete on “government jobs” with the often “cost plus” opportunities offered island contractors by luxury summer home buyers. I submit that we have several examples of pre-fabricated homes on the island, specifically the Ambrose Lane affordable units on the property adjacent to the Thomas property that were built 20 years ago; and the West Side Twenty affordable units built some 10 years ago. As Andy Transue pointed out in his comments to the Town Council, pre-fabs are likely to be more cost-effective.
Using our land and pre-fab technology, housing could be provided for a fraction of the numbers being bandied about. By the way, we are not talking about a freebee here. The rent collected would have the effect of amortizing our investment over a period of years.
It looks like we have employed a first-rate town manager, and he is not grossly overpaid. If we don't level the playing field on housing we are bound to deal with this problem over and over again.
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