News & Event
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.
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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 Madeleine List | Journal Staff Writer
Posted: Aug 22, 2018 at 10:01 PM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 at 11:54 PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — At a forum Wednesday night hosted by Direct Action for Rights and Equality, an advocacy organization for the rights of low-income residents, City Council candidates from eight of the city’s 15 wards answered questions about the dearth of affordable and low-income housing in the city.
Many of the challengers targeted the incumbents on their lack of action on issues related to housing, said Christopher Samih-Rotondo, a community organizer with DARE.
For any sitting City Council member to say that he or she has been working on the issue is “disingenuous” because the problem is out of control, said Justice Gaines, a Ward 1 council candidate.
When asked what the candidates would do about the criminalization of homelessness and poverty in Providence, many said they would repeal a downtown smoking ban, passed last year, that they said unjustly targets the homeless population.
Ward 1 Councilman Seth Yurdin, who is running for reelection, said he supported the smoking ban from a public health standpoint. He said he is against any attempt to criminalize poverty and said he would support the repeal of the ordinance if it was shown to be used as a tool to harass people.
Candidates also told many personal stories that have informed their policy views.
Jason Roias, council candidate in Ward 4, said at the age of 9 he saw his father go to jail and later struggle to reintegrate into the community. Roias said he would propose an ordinance that would ban landlords from using a person’s criminal record to block him or her from renting.
Deyanira Garcia, council candidate in Ward 8, said she once lost her house to foreclosure and was homeless for two years. She vowed to protect residents facing the consequences of gentrification from being pushed out of their communities.
Cyd McKenna, Ward 13 council candidate, spoke about student loan debt and said officials need to help stop the crisis from spiraling. She said she took out $80,000 in loans to cover her living expenses when she attended graduate school and that the sum has now grown to over $100,000 due to interest.
When he was attending high school, Carlos Diaz, council candidate in Ward 8, worked at a factory in Johnston. Education can be a great equalizer, he said, but students need to be ensured reliable housing so that they can focus on learning and not have to work to support their families.
Ward 11 City Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, who is running for reelection, said she became a welder to put her kids through private school, and said the issues of education and housing stability are linked.
Many of the candidates said they would support an ordinance drafted by DARE that includes rent stabilization and increased protections for tenants.
Rachel Miller, City Council candidate for Ward 13, said the ordinance targets absentee landlords and includes important safeguards for tenants, such as the assurance of a yearlong lease and prohibiting rent increases over 4 percent.
Ward 9 City Councilwoman Carmen Castillo, who is running for reelection, said she supports the ordinance, but that raising the minimum wage is also an important aspect of the housing crisis.
Aaron Jaehnig, City Council candidate for Ward 5, said he is in favor of inclusionary zoning and linkage fees, which are charged to developers and spent on affordable housing initiatives.
Rhode Island is the only New England state without a line item for housing in its state budget, said Ward 10 City Councilman Luis Aponte, who is running for reelection. The city needs a comprehensive plan to deal with the affordable housing crisis that will be sustainable and live beyond a single administration, he said.
On Twitter: @madeleine_list
Courtesy of Providence Journal
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Jul 10, 2018 at 10:19 PMUpdated Jul 10, 2018 at 11:43 PM
Topics discussed by the candidates in Wards 1 and 12 included public schools, a proposed high-rise tower on Dyer Street and a plan to move bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to a site near Providence Station.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Speaking at a Downtown Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday night, four Democratic candidates running for Providence City Council to represent Wards 1 and 12 shared similar views on many pressing issues and answered questions from the audience about education.
Topics included public schools, a proposed high-rise tower on Dyer Street and a plan to move bus stops from Kennedy Plaza to a site near Providence Station.
In attendance were Ward 1 Councilman Seth Yurdin and his opponent, Justice Gaines, an organizer with Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, as well as Ward 12 Councilman Terrence Hassett and his opponent, Katherine Kerwin, director of communications at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence.
The candidates were unanimously opposed to the luxury apartment tower that has been proposed by developer Jason Fane to be built on former Route 195 land. They cited concerns about its design, its height and the lack of demand for more high-end apartments downtown.
They also all expressed reservations about a Rhode Island Public Transit Authority proposal to move a portion of Kennedy Plaza bus traffic to a site near Providence Station.
Residents of Avalon at Center Place and Waterplace, who would be living in front of the new transportation hub, would have to deal with increased traffic in an already congested area, Kerwin said.
Gaines and Yurdin said moving the hub would disadvantage those who rely on public transportation.
Hassett said it would be more productive to look at structural improvements that could be made at Kennedy Plaza.
When asked what major issues were facing their wards, the candidates mentioned the deteriorating condition of Providence public schools as well as affordable housing.
Audience members asked the candidates various questions related to education, including whether they supported charter schools and what they as council members could do about the segregation of students by race and class in Providence’s public schools.
Hassett said he felt that charter schools were productive and useful, but that he wouldn’t want them replacing the public school system. Kerwin described charter schools as a “necessary evil” in Providence currently, but said she would rather see the city investing enough in public schools to make charter schools obsolete.
Gaines also said that investing in public schools should be a priority, and Yurdin said he was opposed to charter schools, except in limited circumstances, such as the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, which offers a unique program.
The candidates also said that an overall investment in improving public schools would help solve issues of segregation in the student population.
“Even though Classical High School and Central High School are next to each other, they’re segregated by class,” Gaines said. “They share a courtyard and yet one has wealthier students and one has poorer students. What type of city are we living in where we’re segregating our schools in that manner, and both of those schools are falling apart?”
Thursday, October 04, 2018
Letter Sent in Opposition
The following was sent to Council leaders ahead of the vote:
Dear President Salvatore & Members of the Council
We are community organizations with memberships based in Providence’s low-income communities of color in partnership with advocates and newly elected city officials. For over a decade we have demanded equity in our city's economic development policies. Yet Providence continues to promote public subsidy in private developments that both threaten to displace long-term neighborhood residents and take resources away from our communities without tangible and lasting community benefits.
Given the dramatic shortage of genuinely affordable housing in our city, as well as life-sustaining jobs, especially for Providence’s low-income families living in communities of color, we’re asking you to return the proposed TSA for Steeple Street RI, LLC to the Finance Committee for further review. Though this letter focuses on one specific TSA, the criticisms and recommendations below apply to past and current TSAs agreed to by the Providence city council, as well as future deals.
The TSA for Steeple Street RI, LLC demands more concerted input from residents who will be disproportionately impacted by the loss of public revenue, which is desperately needed to repair roadways and schools, fund recreational programs and the city’s many waning public amenities, as well as support new initiatives shepherded by those who currently live, work, and raise their families in the so-called “Creative Capitol.”
Though the second vote for a Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) for Steeple Street RI, LLC was postponed, the initial vote in favor is very concerning. A major cause of concern with this particular agreement is its extreme length – 20 years of foregone property tax revenue! Why would this much time be necessary for the developers to realize sufficient profit to pay their fair share of taxes? If the development isn’t presumed to be profitable enough to cover property taxes for 20 years, perhaps it isn’t a wise investment for the residents of Providence.
We have a number of amendments to this agreement that would make it broadly beneficial to the residents of Providence this council represents:
Real affordable housing – By that, we mean housing that is affordable to the people who live in the neighborhoods of Providence. Affordable housing is often defined as housing that costs no more than 30% of a household’s monthly income. When we have thousands of families in Providence living on less than $20,000 per year, we must ensure there is sufficient housing that only costs 30% of their monthly income! By contrast, developers and the City use the “Providence Metro Statistical Area” median income of $50,000/year, based on figures that use much of the state of Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts. Therefore, their “affordable” housing is well out of reach of the majority of Providence residents!
Inclusionary zoning laws, which mandate a percentage of residential units built in any development receiving public subsidies be affordable to low-moderate income residents, can ensure that low-income families benefit from what is often luxury housing and commercial development. In addition, linkage fees can be charged per square foot of development and designated to a housing trust fund, designated for construction, rehabilitation, and operation of housing affordable to low-income residents. Both of these practices are successfully implemented as nearby as Boston, as well as many other cities around the country. In fact, the City of Providence already includes linkage fees that are directed to Parks and Recreation for many of the more recent TSAs!
Local Hiring- through effective enforcement of the First Source ordinance, including current TSAs that are not in compliance, the removal of barriers to employment for city residents with criminal records, and the implementation of hiring rules that target disadvantaged census tracts in the city, any public subsidy of private development will create family-sustaining, long-term jobs for current Providence residents.
A commitment to the utilization of Responsible Contractors, including contractors that have not been found to have committed wage theft or employee misclassification in the past five years (either by settlement or by adjudication), contractors who have not been the subject of repeated, serious OSHA violations, contractors that employ bona fide apprenticeship programs which have the opportunity to turn a one time job into a life time career, and residency and diversity requirements as follows: each contractor shall demonstrably perform 15% of workhours by Providence residents, 20% by people of color, 7% by women and 5% by veterans.
We look forward to discussing our proposed amendments with you through the public input process at the Finance Committee as well as meetings with our city council members.
DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality)
Teresa Guaba, Neighbors for Revitalization
Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, Ward 11
City Councilor-Elect Ward 12 Kat Kerwin
City Councilor Elect Ward 13 Rachel Miller
Carpenters Local Union 330
Dannie Ritchie, MD, MPH, Founder, Community Health Innovations of Rhode Island
Dwayne Keys, Providence Resident & Proprietor, D Key Solution
Matos said she doesn’t currently support that idea.
“There are so many questions around it,” she said. “How it’s going to be implemented, what that’s going to mean for the ratepayers, are we going to be able to ensure that the water is going to continue to be affordable?”
But the mayor hasn’t yet presented the council with a well-defined plan, Ryan said. When he does, council members will thoroughly review it, she said.
“We will look at whatever is put forth before us, and we’ll pay close attention to it because we’re very adamant in recognizing that if there is a possibility for us to help our financial position long-term, we will look at it,” she said.
The council must reform the pension system for new employees, Ryan said. Matos has tapped James Lombardi, who served as city treasurer, to work as the council’s acting chief of staff and help bring stakeholders and union representatives to the table to discuss solutions.
With four new council members sworn in this week and a new leadership team, Matos and Ryan said they hope to leave behind the divisions of past councils and think holistically about city business in the future.
“What I’m hoping that we’re going to have is a City Council that works together,” Matos said, “that we are thinking about the city and our neighborhoods and seeing the value in a united front in order to make decisions that are going to improve the lives of our residents.”
On Twitter: @madeleine_list
By Mary MacDonald | April 27, 2018 6:30 am
R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp. is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year in a position of financial strength, says Executive Director Barbara Fields.
It has created programs to assist first-time homeowners, expanded its servicing of mortgages to include those generated by MaineHousing and emerged from the Great Recession with a surplus of financial assets.
But it is working against a backdrop of unaffordability. Half of all renters and 30 percent of homeowners in Rhode Island are housing-cost burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their take-home income on rent and utilities.
Fields has been executive director of the quasi-public agency since January 2015. She previously was the New England regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the director of the Local Initiatives Support Corp. in Providence.
What’s the best way for Rhode Island to increase access to affordable housing?
“Build, build, build,” she said.
How has the mission of R.I. Housing changed over the past 45 years? R.I. Housing was established by the General Assembly in 1973 as a public corporation of the state. We have an independent existence from the state, although they exercise a central control over our board. Our primary purpose was to encourage investment of private funds for the development of housing for low- and moderate-income persons, and to function as a source of capital for affordable-housing development. We were basically set up to be the state’s housing bank at a time when many other states were doing this. Today, there are 53 housing finance agencies [nationally].
Within Rhode Island, what is your share of home loan origination? Last year, we did 13 percent of the mortgages in the state. Origination … is only 15 percent of our business. Eighty-five percent of our business comes from working with 40 brokers and lenders and we consider them, obviously, critical and important partners. The No. 1 is [Coastway Community Bank]. They help bring us business. Housing is economic development. We help support local businesses. … Also, we were set up to bring private money in to help people get into home ownership. We go to Wall Street and float taxable and tax-exempt bonds, both for single-family and multifamily.
Since the [Great Recession], what has changed in our business is we also sell in the secondary market. We get a warehouse line of credit. We work with three or four banks. We purchase the mortgages and when we get enough, we bundle them and we sell them in the secondary market as securitized mortgages.
What’s the benefit of doing that? The interest rates have been extremely low. There are key Rhode Island officials … who got their first mortgages at RIHousing. [Former Auditor General] Ernie Almonte in 1982 or 1983 bought [his] first house. The rates were 15-16 percent and we could get you 12 [percent]. We forget. In a video on our website he stands in front of his first house. That speaks to what our major focus and mission is. People who are early in their career, buying a home and setting roots in the community. Last year was a banner year. We did almost 1,800 mortgages. The average age of someone who got a mortgage through RIHousing last year was 37.
Is there any focus this year for the organization? Rental apartments for working families, working individuals and a lot more seniors. We have a growing senior population. … [Recently], we got the first-ever Capital Magnet Fund. We got one of the largest in the country. It’s from the U.S. Department of Treasury. It’s $4.7 million and it will help us on a key focus. … We run a lot of federal programs on behalf of the state. One of them is the federal low-income housing tax credit. … There are two sets of credits. One is a deeper subsidy, called the 9 percent. It’s highly competitive. We’re doing as much as we possibly can with what we get. The other, which is a shallower subsidy [of 4 percent] that has to be used with our first mortgage, that is limited by the state’s bond capacity. We are not tapped out, and we would love to do more of those deals. And produce more rental housing and preserve housing that exists. [With] that Capital Magnet, we’ll be able to fill that hole, between the 4 percent and the 9 percent.
What is the profile of your mortgage borrower? The average household income for the homeowners we served last year was … about $66,000 to $67,000. That’s teachers who may be in for a few years, certified accountants, nursing assistants, construction workers. This is the heart and soul of what makes up our middle class. And the average sale price was just under $200,000. And I’m proud of the fact that 27 percent of our mortgages are reaching the minority community. We’re seeing rising prices, so some of that rise is good, it means our economy is getting better. … One of the challenges is … just having more housing built in the state.
You’ve touched on the lack of inventory in single-family homes. What is the solution? How do we get more inventory? Build, build, build.
How? There are different pieces. Some of them we’re beginning to explore: if there are zoning challenges and communities that aren’t interested. Personally, I’ve been going around the state for the past year. I’ve been in Barrington, Middletown, Cumberland, talking to mayors, city councilors and town councils. I would have to say, by and large, they are welcoming. Everyone at this point has a story to tell. It’s either my son won’t leave the house, [or] soon it will be my mother won’t leave the house. Or my sister-in-law’s godchild and her fiancé are looking for a house, and they can’t find it. Seniors are staying longer in their homes. They’re living longer and are in better health. That’s not freeing [housing] up.
If there is an understanding of what the issue is, why aren’t more towns creating zoning to allow more density? I think South Kingstown just did some [rezoning] along Route 1. As I say to the communities, think about your community. I’ve been out with two mayors now, I’m about to go with a third, [and I say] drive me around your city, your town, and tell me, where do you want development? Because it is likely to come, and wouldn’t you want to proactively direct it to those places? In South Kingstown, they started talking about some properties that they knew.
There is always going to be some NIMBY-ism [or “not in my backyard”], but we have not had that raised as a major issue. We’re now funding our second project in Barrington. … We have done one now in Shannock Village, in Charlestown. These are apartments for families, most earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year. Anyone can apply. But mostly you get people from your community. When we run the numbers in these communities, usually you find 20 percent of current residents would be eligible. … The most important thing to understand is there isn’t one type of housing that we advocate for. We have high-rise buildings. We have single-family homes being built. We have duplexes. We have ground-floor retail and townhouses.
So, people may have a visual that pops into their head when they think of affordable housing. They don’t want it developed in their community because they think it’s going to be ugly? We’re smarter about how to build [today]. We think about housing as part of the community, and community is the economic life of the state. I’m a community-development person coming into housing, so I am always thinking about the connection. We always look when we are financing multifamily rental, where are the parks, where’s the bus line, where do you shop for groceries? What is it that makes a community?
People still assume millennials are living in the basement with their parents. But they’re out there buying now, they are the starter-home market. You have a variety of mortgage programs, including down-payment assistance. But they’re running into an inventory problem. Are the state’s demographics part of the problem? It’s a variety of factors. You have millennials who are now ready to buy. You have a tremendous change in the economy. We went from the second-worst unemployment rate in the country to one of the lowest. We did a 10-year study. Even if the population grows slowly, we projected it would grow at 5 percent [over 10 years]. Households will grow at 12-13 percent. People are waiting longer to marry. You have a lot of singles, or two people in a house without a child until later. So, people need more houses. People are divorcing. You have more households being created by all of these factors. Especially if you go back and see what was going on 30 years ago. The average size in public housing is smaller. Occasionally we will see a proposal come in with a four-bedroom unit or a five-bedroom unit. But we are building one, two and three [bedrooms].
There is some pushback in Providence that the new housing being constructed is primarily downtown housing not designed to accommodate families, who also need housing. Does Rhode Island need more small apartments? A healthy rental market has about a 6.5-7.5 percent rental vacancy rate, so you have turnover, you have empty units for people to come and look at. The nation is below that. Rhode Island dropped last year … to under 4 percent. And Providence is lower than the state. Providence is about 2 percent. So, we need rental apartments, as well as owner-occupied apartments. We’re in a niche, but it’s needed across the income ranges. Part of what’s increased the demand here also is people coming from the Boston area. This is an attractive place to live.
In Massachusetts, a state law called 40B seems to have more strength in getting affordable housing built in individual towns. (The law allows developers to bypass local zoning in towns or cities that have less than 10 percent of the housing stock available at affordable prices.) What is the challenge for Rhode Island’s affordable-housing requirement? FortyB has a lot more teeth. I would say, yes, we have a 10 percent law. … A [state] commission is looking at how to make it stronger.
Do you think it needs to be made stronger, to distribute affordable housing? Yes, I believe so. When you sit down and talk to a community about who would live in the housing you’re talking about, it becomes a very different story. Up here, it’s like numbers, ideas and images. Down here, it’s “Oh, it’s my best friend. It’s my brother-in-law.”
There are many Rhode Islanders who earn less than the state median, as well. I don’t care what your job is. No one makes in their first five years what they might later. We want to accommodate that. I’m sure Ernie Almonte’s salary is different today than it was 25 years ago, when we helped him buy his first house. But that was a good investment to make. It wasn’t a giveaway.
Some activist groups have recommended rent control in Providence, to dampen price escalation. Is rent control an option? My preference is to build. Supply is the approach now being done in Boston. If we can increase the supply, it helps to moderate the prices. We are also involved in several efforts to make sure we maintain the affordable units that we have, that work for people at the lowest income levels. We are very committed to preservation, whether it’s senior units or family housing. We need to preserve what we have. A lot of the housing we’re preserving is 30 years old.
Some community advocates in Providence think city incentives via tax-stabilization agreements should not be used on luxury housing. The Fane Organization tower could be the next argument over this. Should public incentives be used for luxury product? I would just say the TSA process needs to be predictable. No matter what program we run, people want predictability. In Providence, TSAs are needed so we have predictability. If you meet these requirements, you can come in.
Sen. Howard Metts, D-Providence, has raised the issue of discrimination against Section 8 tenants, that the people who hold the vouchers are having trouble finding apartments. He has proposed a law that would prevent landlords from using the source of income as a reason to block a lease. Is this an issue? Absolutely. Thirteen states have that law, including four New England states. We’re supportive of [his proposal].
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo has proposed a transfer to the state of $5 million from R.I. Housing in fiscal 2019. Can the state “scoop” your funds? The board will have to vote on it. We’re going to minimize the impact. It will have an impact, obviously, but we’re going to minimize it. This came up in January. We know the budget will be made by the end of June.
Why did you agree to do it? The governor controls the board and we’re part of the team. Someone talked to the chairman. It’s not an optimal situation. But we’re going to minimize it. We get rated by the bond-rating agencies and we’re talking with them. They will take a look at our rating. But we happen to be in a strong position.
According to your most recent annual audit, your loan-loss contribution fell dramatically in fiscal 2017. What is the story behind that? The market is doing better. People are doing better. We had tremendous losses during the recession, now we’re on a different path. We hope it continues.
The same audit indicated that the three-month delinquencies on R.I. Housing mortgages rose between 2016 and 2017. What is the reason for that? We had a slight uptick, but we are on top of it. We are below nationwide and below New England. We have new metrics we’re following and are working with our 40 brokers and lenders. We look at people’s credit scores and we look at their ratios. We meet, we want [the Federal Housing Administration] to purchase our mortgages, FHA and Fannie Mae. We have some flexibility. We instituted a credit score to raise it a little, to make sure we’re in line with the rest of the New England states.
Some people think homeownership shouldn’t necessarily be identified as a dream for everyone. That maybe we shouldn’t be encouraging homeownership. Do you have any thoughts on that? We should always have a range of housing options. … There are people who need a homeownership opportunity, they’ve saved for years. It may be a single-family, a townhouse, a condominium. We need rental opportunities. Seniors who owned a home who need a rental opportunity. Supportive opportunities, say veterans, where there are services on-site for them. And we also work on properties where we have the vouchers. Every community needs to think, at different points in people’s lives … there are different reasons why people choose types of housing.
Courtesy of Providence Business News
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