News & Event
By: Philip Cozzolino
CHARLESTOWN - Habitat for Humanity has welcomed a new face as its executive director. Colin Penney took over the position on Oct. 30 after a nationwide search. Penney takes over the post from Lou Raymond, who is set to retire later this year after 15 years of service to the Charlestown non-profit organization, a branch of the nationwide non-profit which seeks to provide affordable, quality housing for all. In announcing the appointment, Val Henry, president of the South County Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors, was excited to welcome Habitat’s new leader. “We are extremely excited to welcome Colin to South County Habitat,” Henry said. “We look forward to his leadership as we work together continuing in our mission of providing affordable housing in our community.”Henry went on to say the search for a new executive director led South County Habitat on a nationwide exploration of candidates that included over 150 applicants. Of that pool, Penney was the organization’s top choice. Penney comes to South County Habitat with over 15 years of experience in non-profits and affordable housing, and has extensive experience working with Habitat for Humanity various chapters across the country, both as a volunteer and staff member. Most recently, he served as the program director for Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley in the Youngstown area of Ohio. Youngstown, Ohio is currently one of the most affordable places in the country to live – a stark contrast from the pricey real estate market of New England.
“Land [in northern Ohio] has very little value because there’s lots of it available,” Penney said when asked what would be different between the two locations. “Working in a community where oftentimes the land is just as valuable as the materials you’re putting onto it adds an additional challenge to affordability in the area. And as land values continue to increase as more and more people want to move to such a wonderful area, that lack of land and access to land is definitely going to be an ongoing challenge that Habitat will be facing.” Penney became dedicated to combatting homelessness while studying sociology and anthropology at Ohio Wesleyan University, working with the Columbus, Ohio homeless population and studying how city growth and new infrastructure had triggered a system in which low-income individuals were forced from their homes and into the streets. While working as Mahoning Valley Habitat for Humanity’s Program Director, Penney was directly responsible for all of the organizations volunteer recruitment and training and selection of homebuyers. Working directly with those preparing to become homeowners for the first time, Penney assisted with mortgages, loans and payment collection.
As executive director for South County Habitat, Penney will oversee all operations of the non-profit organization.
“A lot of my experience, particularly on the loan and mortgage side, is something we’re really looking to remodel with the new affiliate and take the affiliate in a new direction to try to simplify and bring a lot of that [work] in-house,” he said. “It will be a big benefit.”
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community,” Penney continued. “Habitat really is a community-based organization, we couldn’t do it without our hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and all the donations that are coming everywhere from the University of Rhode Island to local businesses to community members who want to take that time either swinging a hammer or open their wallets to make a donation. I’m really looking forward to integrating myself into that community, getting to know as many folks as I can and figure out what the biggest need is in affordable housing.”
When asked about those housing needs unique to South County and New England, Penney spoke to the effect short-term rentals have had on the local housing market.
“I think one of the really unique housing issues in South County is the kind of housing carousel,” he said. “Where there’s individuals who might not qualify for traditional home loans through a bank but are very stable financially and just aren’t quite ready for that next step, and as a result, they’re forced to rent. With the nine-month academic rental paired with the three-month summer rental, finding consistent, year-round housing is incredibly difficult and very expensive and adds a lot of stress to individual families.” Being a native New Englander originally from Vermont, Penney is excited to return to the northeast.
“I have been fortunate to build with so many Habitat affiliates across the country, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to return to New England and serve a community so close to where I was raised,” the new executive director said. “I have seen the impact Habitat has on the lives of its homeowners, the hearts of its volunteers, and the spirit of the local community it serves. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting involved as quickly as possible.”
Courtesy of The Narragansett Times
By PHILIP COZZOLINO | Jun 2, 2018
NARRAGANSETT — Speaking to a legislative commission earlier this month, Narragansett Town Planner Michael DeLuca described some of the challenges Narragansett and other Washington County communities are facing in attempting to supply more affordable housing.
DeLuca, representing eight towns in Washington County, explained a variety of issues with the current Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act, passed in 2004, which mandates that 10 percent of a municipality’s housing stock be designated as affordable housing. Currently, the state only grants that designation to deed-restricted units on government-subsidized properties. In testimony to the Special Legislative Commission to Study the Low to Moderate Income Housing Act, a group chaired by state Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) with members including Rep. Blake Filippi (R-Dist. 36, Block Island, Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown), DeLuca argued certain properties that are not currently designated as affordable housing under the mandate, such as in-law apartments, apartments rented with Section 8 vouchers and properties with “natural” affordability, should be included.
“The presence of several forms of ‘natural’ affordability is not accounted for anywhere in the current law,” said DeLuca. “As noted by Glocester, the existence of dozens of mobile homes in defined neighborhoods that sell well below the average cost of a subsidized permanent home should be rightly acknowledged and accepted in each town’s qualified inventory.”
“Additionally, virtually every town has small enclaves of lower valued permanent homes making up the neighborhoods that younger and/or lower income families gravitate to for a first home,” DeLuca continued. “Those homes that are not deed-restricted are assessed (and sell) at a value below the Town’s ‘affordable’ base price, could likewise be considered for counting in the Town’s affordable inventory.”
In addition to Narragansett, DeLuca was also representing eight other communities in Washington County including Richmond, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Hopkinton, Charlestown, Westerly and Exeter.
do get a place in Narragansett stay.”
“Then there’s naturally affordable housing - housing that rents in the same range as the state would consider acceptable in a low-moderate income apartment that is deed-restricted,” said DeLuca. “We have non-deed-restricted market housing that’s renting in the same range - we can’t count that.”
Courtesy of The Narragansett Times
By KELLY SULLIVAN
CHARLESTOWN – South County Habitat for Humanity, located at 1555 Shannock Road in Charlestown, will be hosting a Community Resource Fair on Aug. 25.
This free event is open to all South County residents who would like information and guidance on the services available to give individuals and families a hand up during difficult times.
A dozen different area organizations will be present at the fair and include the following:
Al’s Moving Minds; a non-profit agency for senior citizens living with memory loss. The volunteer-run agency offers customized programs and socialization for those with early-to moderate-stage dementia.
The Domestic Violence Resource Center of South County; offering safety, support, advocacy and education to victims of domestic abuse. Since 1978, the center has been providing a network of services to those who have suffered, or are suffering from, the effects of violence or abuse.
Easter Seals Rhode Island; offering a wide range of services for individuals and families challenged by disability. By providing resources necessary for quality living, learning, working and playing, the organization has been making profound differences in the lives of those with disabilities for nearly a century.
The Education Exchange; providing adult education services in an environment that embraces diversity. Since 1978, the agency has been empowering students through the opportunities for personal growth, job readiness and workforce skills.
The Exeter Job Corps Academy; a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Individuals aged 16 to 24 are provided with the technical and academic training that can greatly improve the quality of life.
The Jonnycake Center of Westerly; providing services in cooperation with other area agencies to individuals and families in crisis. The non-profit agency provides food, clothing and financial assistance to residents of the Westerly-Chariho area, while helping them to find a path out of dependency.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors; a non-profit charitable organization that helps to keep South County residents living safely in their homes after unexpected events, such as floods or fires, demand costly home repairs.
Operation Stand Down Rhode Island; started by veterans for the benefit of veterans, the organization’s mission is to give back to those who served and protected our liberties. Offering services and housing to homeless veterans, they help to ensure that struggling vets are able to get back on their feet.
Perspectives Corporation; a multi-faceted agency that helps those with intellectual, developmental and other types of disabilities live quality lives and pursue their dreams. Regardless of the severity of a disability, the programs and services offered by the agency ensures that any individual can have the opportunity to participate in and contribute to society.
The Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty; champions the eradication of poverty in Rhode Island and includes congregations of every faith from across the state. By helping to provide affordable housing, nutritious food, accessible healthcare, equitable education and employment with decent wages, the coalition assists in laying the foundation for a better future.
Tri-County Community Action; providing accessible social educational, health, prevention and other services to people in need since 1964. The organization offers a wide range of services to empower needy individuals in achieving their highest possible level of self-sufficiency and quality living.
The University Of Rhode Island Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; providing assistance with food costs to low-income individuals and families.
The Warm Center; offers care and services to the homeless and needy. The 19-bed adult shelter contains a community soup kitchen that serves lunch and dinner each day of the year. The organization’s services include assistance with finding affordable housing, case management, job development, clothing and other supportive programs.
The Community Resource Fair will run from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. If you are a veteran, a senior citizen, an individual living with a disability, a caregiver, someone undergoing a financial crisis, or if you just want to find out more about the services offered to those in need in South County, stop by and talk to one of the agents or pick up some information.
Courtesy of The Chariho Times
October 26, 2017 08:16PM
By Catherine Hewitt, Sun staff writer
CHARLESTOWN — South County Habitat for Humanity announced Friday that Colin Penney has been named executive director, effective Oct. 30. He will take over for Lou Raymond, who will retire later this year after 15 years of service.
Most recently Penney, 34, served as program director for Habitat for Humanity of Mahoning Valley, in Struthers, Ohio, near Youngstown. He has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofits and affordable housing, and has worked with Habitat as a volunteer and staff member.
Penney got his start working on housing issues as a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, where he studied sociology and and anthropology. He worked with the homeless in Columbus, Ohio, and studied how city growth and new infrastructure had forced low-income people out of their homes.
Val Henry, president of the board of directors, said, “We are extremely excited to welcome Colin to South County Habitat and we look forward to his leadership as we work together continuing our mission of providing affordable housing in our community.” Henry said the board conducted a nationwide search that attracted more than 150 applicants.
Penney, a native of Vermont, said he was excited to return to the Northeast. “I have been fortunate to build with so many Habitat affiliates across the country, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to return to New England and serve a community so close to where I was raised,” he said. “I have seen the impact that Habitat has on the lives of its homeowners, the hearts of its volunteers, and the spirit of the local community it serves. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting involved as quickly as possible.” For more information go to www.southcountyhabitat.org.
By KENDRA GRAVELLE | Jun 23, 2018
SOUTH KINGSTOWN—With the topic of affordable housing on the minds of many who live in South Kingstown, the town’s affordable housing collaborative committee hosted a workshop at the South Kingstown Recreation Center Tuesday to hear residents’ thoughts on the issue.
“By providing affordable housing it helps our community become a little bit more diverse, it allows for us to age in place,” said Cheryl Hartnett, chair of the affordable housing collaborative committee. “Then the other portion that really hits home for me is for it to remain a vibrant multicultural community.”
“We need to think about, what kind of community do we want South Kingstown to be?” she continued.
Planning Director Chelsea Siefert explained Tuesday that housing that costs 30 percent or less of someone’s income is typically considered affordable. And when it comes to affordable housing currently available in South Kingstown, Siefert added the town is “lacking.”
There are two kinds of affordable housing—there’s deed-restricted, income-based housing, and there’s affordable housing in a more general sense, which considers what housing affordability in South Kingstown is like overall.
A state mandate indicates that 10 percent of the year-round housing in a given town should be deed-restricted affordable. In South Kingstown, currently just 5.6 percent of the housing—612 units—fall under that category.
Siefert added that a perusal Tuesday of Realtor.com painted a grim picture of affordable housing in South Kingstown.
The website indicated there’s currently a very low number of affordable listings—just six two-bedroom houses were listed under $200,000—as well as a lack of affordable year-round rental properties.
Jen Krueger, member services director of Jonnycake Center of Peace Dale and a member of the affordable housing collaborative committee, added that the lack of affordable housing in town means that many who are employed locally—in the service industry for example—are unable to afford to live where they work.
“If you think about all these different kinds of places where folks are not able to make $25 of $30 an hour, they’re really, really having trouble finding any housing here where they work,” she said, adding those with disabilities or on fixed incomes are also struggling.
“There are just so many different people that really need housing that’s affordable,” she continued. “Even if someone gets a Section 8 voucher that they can use in South Kingstown or Narragansett, I personally have had a very difficult time finding rentals that folks may well have waited years to be eligible for.”
She said because of that, many families who have lived in the area for generations have been left with no choice but to relocated to more affordable towns up north.
Hartnett echoed some of that. She added she appreciates the town’s vibrancy, but doesn’t think it can be sustained if housing prices remain where they are.
“The other thing that saddens me when I drive around town too is the empty storefronts,” she added. “In order to fill those storefronts, we need to be able to entice businesses to come here, and in order to do that there needs to be homes for their employees.”
Those in attendance—including many local leaders as well as Town Manager Rob Zarnetske and Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow—were divided into groups to discuss among themselves their visions for affordable housing and the hurdles which pose challenges to those visions.
The round-table portion of the meeting churned up all kinds of thoughts on the topic. Among those mentioned was a resounding concern over the lack of education on what affordable housing means.
“[There’s] a lack of understanding among the general public of what we mean by affordable housing,” Zarnetske said.
“A major challenge is actually this notion that the ideal is pretty close to what we’ve got,” he continued. “A lot of people in town really think we’ve got it exactly right.”
Several people Tuesday mentioned the concept of NIMBYism (not-in-my-back-yard), and added it would be crucial to break through stereotypes.
Some of the points listed under visions were thoughts of utilizing accessory units; encouraging starter homes; sharing resources with the University of Rhode Island; and the possibility of adding more diverse housing.
“Right now we have a lot of single-family houses, we don’t have a lot of smaller structure or multi-units,” planning board member Joe Murphy said.
Kenny Burke, who’s on the affordable housing collaborative committee, urged those eager to lend a hand to become involved with local nonprofits doing work in affordable housing, including the Welcome House of South County, the Jonnycake Center and Galilee Mission. He also encouraged residents to follow what’s going on in the local committees.
Siefert added a public hearing during Monday’s town council meeting will invite residents to share their thoughts on proposed zoning changes for multi-housing developments. She also said the town currently has a request for proposal (RFP) out to hire someone to help review the town’s inclusionary zoning ordinance.
“When you have a major land development project or major subdivision that’s six units or more, you have to provide 20 percent as deed-restricted affordable housing,” Siefert explained. “We want to figure out how we can better make use of that, incentivize it better, get more concrete results out of that.”
With a lack of affordable housing in the town, Hartnett added Tuesday she was pleased to see so many South Kingstown residents advocating for changing that.
“I’m happy to see that our wheels seem to be spinning,” Hartnett said. “Affordable housing is a hot topic and I love to see everyone that’s come out engaging in the community.”
By: KENDRA GRAVELLE | Feb. 16, 2018
SOUTH KINGSTOWN—The town council voted during its meeting Monday to use a portion of the money in its affordable housing trust fund for consulting services to make amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance to better address the need for affordable housing.
The town council voted as part of its capital improvement plan last year to allocate $100,000 to an affordable housing trust fund to be used partially to “permit the engagement of consulting services to conduct a comprehensive analysis of affordable housing needs in the community,” in order to “outline potential policy and programmatic directions to consider that may better align our efforts concerning affordable housing in South Kingstown.”
But after a request for proposals (RFP) sent out last fall yielded no responses, Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing, visited the town to discuss the need for an additional housing supply to meet an imminent demand.
“She basically reiterated something that I think we all already know—that there’s a shortage of housing, in general, in Rhode Island,” planning director Chelsea Siefert said. “Our demand is increasing and we’re not creating enough housing to house the anticipated population over the next 20 to 30 years.”
On top of a general housing shortage in the state, affordable housing is also scarce.
“And the needs of our population throughout the state and in South County are changing,” Siefert continued. “We know that the millennial and elderly populations are growing at alarming rates and they would prefer smaller units—one bedroom or two in town where they have easy access to services.”
But that’s not the type of housing being built in either South Kingstown or the state as a whole.
To address that, the affordable housing collaborative (AHC) and planning board discussed during a joint session last month the possibility of using a portion of the $100,000 set aside for affordable housing toward hiring a consultant service to update the town’s zoning ordinance.
“Both to look at our inclusionary zoning provisions,” Siefert said, “and to see where we could allow more multi-household development in town where it would make sense and what it should look like and act like.”
Siefert said the town would also like to receive architectural and site-design guidelines.
She said that although it’s difficult to determine at this point what that study will cost, it could fall into the $30,000 to $60,000 range—that would depend largely on the depth of the study.
“I really want it to look at every aspect of our code and be as innovative as possible,” Siefert said.
“I think this is a great alternative use for the money that we earmarked for affordable housing,” town council vice president Abel Collins said.
Town councilors Liz Gledhill and Bryant Da Cruz echoed that, with Da Cruz adding that the study is “long overdue.”
And Siefert said she doesn’t anticipate another problem getting RFP responses.
“There are definitely consultants in Rhode Island that do this work,” she said. “I think we will definitely get some responses, I think people will be excited about this work—no one else is really doing this in Rhode Island.”
Siefert added she would like to see the study be village-specific.
“So what does it look like in Wakefield, versus Peace Dale, versus Kingston,” she said. “I think that aspect of it will draw some interest.”
Town councilors approved the resolution unanimously.
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