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
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.
NLIHC announced the honorees of the 2018 Housing Leadership Awards who will be recognized at NLIHC’s annual Leadership Awards Reception in Washington, DC on March 20, 2018. The honorees are U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME); Lisa Hasegawa, former executive director of the National Coalition for Asian and Pacific American Community Development and NLIHC board member; and Matthew Desmond, PhD, MacArthur Genius Awardee and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
Senator Collins will receive the 2018 Edward W. Brooke Housing Leadership Award for her years of leadership in Congress, unwavering commitment to addressing the needs of the lowest income people in the U.S., and steadfast support for federal affordable housing and homelessness programs. The Brooke Award is named for the late Senator Brooke (R-MA), who championed low income housing as a U.S. senator and as chairman of the NLIHC Board of Directors after he left the Senate. The Brooke award goes to an exemplary housing leader with a record of fighting for affordable housing on the national level.
Ms. Hasegawa will receive the 2018 Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award for her years of dedication to affordable housing on behalf of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The Dolbeare Award, named after NLIHC’s late founder who has been referred to as the “godmother” of the affordable housing movement, goes to an individual who has demonstrated an unyielding commitment to achieving safe, decent and affordable homes for low income people over a long period of time.
Dr. Desmond will receive the Sheila Crowley Housing Justice Award in 2018 for his groundbreaking work to elevate the need for affordable housing for the lowest income people in America. The Crowley Award, named for former NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley, goes to an outstanding leader who has elevated the conversation around affordable housing for those most in need.
Please make a Leadership Award Reception sponsorship donation honoring these outstanding leaders and supporting NLIHC’s mission of promoting socially just public policy to ensure the lowest income people in America have decent, affordable homes. To register for the 2018 Leadership Reception at which Ms. Collins, Ms. Hasegawa, and Dr. Desmond will be recognized, contact Christina Sin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sponsorship donations can be made at: http://bit.ly/2fSOtEH
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
To the Editor:
Just a few notes of wonder and questions from the “Resident Island Pundit.” We have two ignominious failures at the Town Hall level that stand out. Many more that are present, but there are some just below the radar, such as the $60,000 cost per pupil at the school. Then the $8,000,000 internet.
We do own the Power Company now, I think. By “we,” I mean the town, but some question that. There is a President of BIPCo in place at a great salary. Somehow, a Board to oversee the workings just can’t easily be put in place; mishandling of ballots at the Town Clerk’s office and BIPCo, new ballot mailings where your name and a numbered ballot means everyone will know how you voted. Our bills have been about 25 percent less than under the McGinnes regime, for which there is nothing but confusing explanations. But this month (September), it dropped 100 percent from last year. Then we read a letter in The Block Island Times from the President that we were inadvertently charged the winter rate during a summer month and will get another additional bill for the difference. Knock knock, anybody home?
Now we hear that a stop work order is in place to stop construction of the above-ground fuel tanks at BIPCo when they are half way completed. A town official stops construction on a town facility. Have you ever heard that before? Would you think a stop work order would be placed when there was no permit as the work was started? Try to get an answer from Town Hall on that one.
I thought we had wind power and a cable, but we also now have new diesel engines and fuel tanks, and an electric substation that we have pay for.
Then we have the saga of the new Town Manager. Haven’t had one for a year now, after spending $20,000 on a search committee only to have the “establishment” fire the last new manager after three months — with a healthy severance. Never have been given a reason, but it easily could have been his trying to limit their smoking breaks.
First Warden Ken Lacoste, now again in The Block Island Times, literally begging for a home for the now-new Manager. Hey, Ken, you’re a little late again, maybe looking a year ago and finding something might have interested an applicant. What good is a job without a home on an island?
There will probably be another push for more affordable housing when most of the homes are filled with the children of wealthy families, and our summer policemen have to live in small rooms with no kitchen facilities.
There is still the problem with the Old Town Road bridge just sitting there, that was going to be finished by Memorial Day 2017, now it’s 2018 — maybe. Then the Deer Task Force promising that the deer tag program would be privately funded but now want $40,000 from the Town.
The “establishment” at the Town Hall, that’s First Warden-for-life Ken Lacoste, who is under their total control and hasn’t been able to make a decision recently, except to not pursue a kneel for the flag and ban on the Pledge of Allegiance at Town Council meetings. Could he be responsible for all of this? I’m not trying to be picky about this, but where does the buck stop? This makes us wonder about who really is in charge here, if anyone. We are on an island, but it could easily be a ship at sea without a captain and our tax dollars floating away with the tide.
Beacon Hill Farm
The West Warwick Housing Authority announced their partnership with the University of Rhode Island’s Community Health Student Nurses; Program. Student nurses, participating in the program, visit the Housing Authority’s two elderly/disabled developments at West Warwick Manor and Clyde Tower to conduct health screening of residents. Many residents have benefited from the program.
Rose Courtemanche from West Warwick Manor said, “I’m happy to see them here for the free service. It saves me from an extra trip to the doctor’s office just to have my blood pressure checked.”
Tom Stegnicki, Community Health Instructor for URI’s Community Health Student Nurses Program, stated, “We are very pleased to partner with the West Warwick Housing Authority by providing health screening, including blood pressure and blood sugar screening. The partnership is a win-win situation. The housing authority residents receive free health screening, while the student nurses receive practical experience by working with a diverse community.
Lisa Cancelliere, the Housing Authority’s Resident Services Coordinator, stated, “I appreciate URI partnering with us to provide these valuable healthcare services. We fully intend to continue this type of program, as well as sponsor a Health Fair for residents in the very near future.
The WWHA was founded in 1962 and manages 250units of public housing and over 160 units of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. WWHA is home to approximately 275 elderly and disabled residents.
Courtesy of The Kent County Daily Times
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
PROVIDENCE (AP) – The number of single-family homes sold in Rhode Island had declined in September compared to last year, but the median price was up 13 percent.
The Rhode Island Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales dipped 4 percent as home inventory remained low. The median price was just over $261,000, compared to $231,000 in September 2016.
The group’s president, Brenda Marchwicki, says more homes need to come on the market to keep prices affordable, especially for first-time buyers.
The group says pending sales were down 13.5 percent, perhaps hinting at a further slowdown in sales for the rest of the year.
Condominium sales were up more than 18 percent, and the median price was up 23 percent.
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