News & Event
By Christine Dunn, Journal Staff Writer
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at 12:10PM, Updated Nov 30, 2017 at 12:26PM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A playground for an elementary school in South Providence, downtown revitalization in Woonsocket, and a new continuing-education center in Central Falls were among the projects that won support in the first round of awards from the $10-million urban revitalization/blight relief fund approved by state voters in 2016 as part of the $50-million affordable housing bond.
The Rhode Island Housing Board of Commissioners on Thursday morning approved close to $3.8 million in awards to six different projects. The next round of awards is planned for March 2018. Known formally as the Acquisition and Revitalization Program, its aim is to stabilize neighborhoods by targeting foreclosed or blighted residential and commercial properties and vacant lots in need of redevelopment.
Although ARP financing is available statewide, 75 percent of the funding has been set aside for urban communities.
A request for proposals went out in July, and 18 proposals requesting $10.9 million were received. Nine of the proposals failed to meet requirements. The awards approved by the board Thursday are:
—- $1 million for the Dexter Adult Learning and Workforce Development Hub in Central Falls, in a vacant building at 934 Dexter St., formerly the Dexter Credit Union building. The hub is being developed by the City of Central Falls and Rhode Island College. The project, with an estimated cost of $5.8 million, is also being supported by state and federal historic tax credits, and EPA brownfields money.
— $975,000 for the Millrace District Creative Placemaking Initiative in downtown Woonsocket. Three vacant mills at 15 Island Place and 69 South Main St. are being redeveloped as housing and commercial space by NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, a nonprofit community development agency. There will be 58 live-work units and 6 commercial units. Rhode Island Housing said this award is for the commercial part of the project only.
— $612,484 for the Bailey Baxter Playspace Project. Working with the Nature Conservancy, the City of Providence will create a playground for the Bailey Elementary School at 65 Gordon Ave. and improve adjacent Baxter Park by redeveloping two vacant and blighted properties with lots at 56, 57, 58, 61, 62 and 66 Baxter Street. The total cost is $890,385, and the effort is also being financed by the City of Providence and Community Development Block Grant funds.
— $906,369 for Georgiaville Village Green, Smithfield’s first affordable housing development for families, at the intersection of Higgins Street and Whipple Avenue. There will be 42 apartments built for households earning less than 60 percent of area median income. It is an $11-million development by Coventry Housing Associates Corp. and Gemini Housing Corp.
— $146,727 for SWAP Inc. for 136 Rugby St., Providence.; and
— $153,528 for SWAP Inc. for 44 Lillian Ave., Providence. SWAP (Stop Wasting Abandoned Properties) will develop two-family homes on two vacant lots. Each house will include a three-bedroom homeownership apartment and a two-bedroom rental unit.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
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.
Posted Oct 11, 2017 at 12:01 AM
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For families with household incomes below $50,000, the improving housing market in 2016 meant rising prices, and fewer homes and apartments they can afford to rent or buy, according to a new report from HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University.
The report found that in 2016, only two communities, Central Falls and Providence (not counting the East Side) offered “homes for sale that fit a household budget of under $50,000.”
For renters, there was no municipality in the state where the average cost of a two-bedroom rental apartment was affordable on a household income of $30,934, the median income for Rhode Island renters.
Even for renters earning less than $50,000, there were just six communities where the average rent price was “affordable:” Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence (without the East Side) and Woonsocket.
Housing is deemed “affordable” if housing costs consume no more than 30 percent of a household’s gross income.
“Simply put, Rhode Island needs more housing,” said Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. “The real estate market is booming right now, and that means housing prices are rising — which puts pressure on families who are already struggling to get by. The good news is that we have already begun taking steps to increase production, and the $50 million housing bond that passed last year is a start.”
As the “affordability gap” grew, there was also a jump in the number of foreclosures last year. There were 1,561 foreclosure deeds issued in the Ocean State in 2016, an increase of 32 percent compared with 2015, according to the 2017 Housing Fact Book.
In addition, “Rhode Island’s rate of seriously delinquent loans is still among the highest in the United States, ranking ninth in the fourth quarter of 2016,” the report added.
The Fact Book, an annual report from HousingWorks RI, tracks affordability and other housing issues across the state. It was scheduled for release Wednesday at HousingWorks’ annual luncheon, which this year includes a morning panel discussion “offering an in-depth look at the numbers.” HousingWorks RI is a nonprofit research group that became part of Roger Williams University in 2014.
The Fact Book also tracked an increase in 2016 in building permits, which rose by 23 percent to 1,226 permits. But this level is still far below projected needs.
“As noted in the Projecting Future Housing Needs Report (2016), commissioned by Rhode Island Housing, over the next 10 years there is an anticipated need for more than 34,000 new homes,” the Fact Book added, and “demand is for more than 27,000 of those to be multifamily and able to serve households with incomes less than 80 percent of area median income ($40,400 to $68,000 for households of one to four across the state).”
But many communities still have far to go in reaching the state-mandated goal of having 10 percent of their housing stock be long-term, deed-restricted affordable housing, the report added. Just five communities have met the goal: Central Falls, Newport, New Shoreham, Providence and Woonsocket.
Communities with less than 3 percent include: Barrington (2.66), Charlestown (2.86), Exeter (2.36), Foster (2.05), Glocester (2.23), Little Compton (0.56 percent), Portsmouth (2.83), Richmond (1.89), Scituate (0.85), and West Greenwich (1.41). However, statewide, the average is up to 8.29 percent.
Rhode Island continues to have an exceptionally low homeownership rate, particularly for communities of color.
“At 60 percent, Rhode Island has the lowest rate of homeownership among the six New England states, and ranks 46th nationally,” the report added. “Across race and ethnicity, homeownership rates in Rhode Island show great disparity. White residents have a homeownership rate of 65 percent, while Latino, Black and Asian household rates are 28 percent, 31 percent and 50 percent, respectively.”
R.I. housing costs, 2016
Median house price: $239,900
Income needed to afford this: $68,065
Average two-bedroom rent: $1,288
Income needed to afford this: $51,520
SOURCE: 2017 HOUSING FACT BOOK
Christine Dunn, Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I.- " Some of the prettiest homes in ProvidenceA are affordable housing. That was the unspoken but clear message at Thursday's housing trolley tour of the Smith Hill, Olneyville and South Providence neighborhoods. Senators and housing officials looked at restored historical houses and newly built homes, many adorned with flower boxes, black wrought-iron fencing, and shiny metal mailboxes.
Many of the homes on the tour were formerly boarded-up, abandoned and/or foreclosed properties, remnants of the foreclosure crisis.
Organized by Rhode Island Housing and the Senate Committee on Housing and Municipal Government, the tour was designed to show all the aspects of neighborhood revitalization that have accompanied investments in affordable housing in the capital city. Senate President Dominick Ruggerio was a member of the tour group.
I really don't like the word affordable, said Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. Unfortunately, it conjures up images from the '40s, '50s and '60s ... and nobody is building housing like that anymore.
Certainly not in Olneyville, where the attractive Riverside Townhomes, built by One Neighborhood Builders (formerly Olneyville Housing) overlook the playground, fish ladder and community garden at Riverside Park. The park used to be a hotspot for crime in Olneyville, according to two Providence police officers, Lt. Henry Remolina and Lt. Richard Fernandes, who met the group at the park.
The park once was a contaminated moonscape, said Jay O'Grady, who used to work at Olneyville Housing. He now works for LISC, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which has invested $75 million in Olneyville in recent years, according to Carrie Zaslow, also of LISC. About $14 million was spent on environmental remediation of the site, according to Alicia Lehrer, executive director of the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council.
The improvement of this section of Olneyville was designed with input from local police to help enhance safety, and the officers said it has led to a dramatic drop in crime.
A short distance away is an active construction site at the former Imperial Knife factory in Olneyville. The building is being converted into 60 apartments, including 54 affordable units and six 1 market-rate homes.
Fields said Rhode Island Housing helps all Rhode Islanders, including millennials saddled with student debt and the state's growing senior population.
In Smith Hill, about a third of the houses in the Pekin Street Historic District, mainly distressed properties, were purchased by the Smith Hill Community Development Corporation and redeveloped, according to Jean Lamb, executive director of the CDC.
Rhode Island's housing shortage remains acute, Fields said a normal rental vacancy rate is about 7 percent, but it is 4 percent in Rhode Island as a whole and it is at 2 percent in Providence, she said. This has led to rising rents and is even pushing many renters into homeownership, Fields added.
But the competition for entry-level homes is especially acute, said Carla DeStefano, executive director of Stop Wasting Abandoned Property. She said her group mainly serves working families earning between $30,000 and $48,000 a year. SWAP's most recent home ownership development was sold out before the foundations were poured, she said.
There are no private builders building what we build anywhere in the state, DeStefano said.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of the Providence Journal Bulletin
By Christine Dunn
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — More than 200 residents of the Hartford Parks and Manton Heights public housing developments have enrolled in Jobs Plus, a grant-funded program run by the Providence Housing Authority.
Staffers from the PHA, local officials and partners, and Jobs Plus participants met Thursday morning to mark the progress of the program, which launched in April.
The PHA received a four-year, $2.9-million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to run the Jobs Plus program. The PHA was one of 24 public housing authorities in the country selected for the competitive grant program.
Jobs Plus aims to increase residents’ earned income without penalizing them with a rent increase, with the goal of creating a “culture of work” in public housing.
The staff established partnerships with local organizations to provide participants with access to work-readiness training, industry-specific job skills training, and job placement and retention services.
Diana Saldana, who lives in Manton Heights, started working as a part-time Jobs Plus community outreach worker in May, and in August she got a full-time job with benefits as an administrative assistant at We Make RI.
Another aspect of the program is financial literacy. Jennifer Hawkins, executive director of One Neighborhood Builders, said her group is offering financial literacy and financial coaching help to residents.
Carmen Navarro from Hartford Park received financial literacy training, and also enlisted in ESL classes to help her understand and pass the Rhode Island Nursing Assistant state exam. She trained to become a certified nursing assistant while also holding down a full-time job.
Mayor Jorge Elorza, acting City Council President Sabina Matos, Councilwoman and PHA board member Mary Kay Harris, Nicolas Retsinas, who chairs the boards of both the PHA and Rhode Island Housing, and Progreso Latino Executive Director Mario Bueno were among those who attended the event to cheer on the PHA effort, led by Program Manager Julie Piccolo.
Many paid tribute to PHA Executive Director Paul Tavares, who is retiring at the end of the year.
“I thank you for your honorable service,” said Nancy Smith Greer, director of HUD’s Rhode Island office.
Housing advocates in Rhode Island representing a wide coalition of housing groups including community development corporations (CDCS); public housing authorities (PHAs); homeless shelter providers and advocates issued the following statement on the tax bills passed by the House of Representatives and Senate Finance last week:
“Rhode Island already has an affordable housing crisis, but the tax bills recently passed by the US House of Representatives and under consideration in the Senate would make it a catastrophe. Without the federal tax credits and bonds that these bills weaken or eliminate, tens of thousands of affordable homes will not be built, and tens of thousands of families will be left homeless across our state and country.” said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI. “The programs impacted by these bills are critically important affordable housing development and preservation tools, particularly in Rhode Island. We need Congress to protect these vital programs and to invest in the affordable housing resources that we rely on to meet the urgent housing needs of Rhode Islanders.” noted Melina Lodge, Executive Director of Housing Network of RI. “If a tax bill like this becomes law, it will impede our ability to create new affordable housing for years to come and will exacerbate homelessness in Rhode Island resulting in more families out on the streets irreparably harming our communities. ” said Bert Cooper, Interim Administrator of the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. “This legislation would increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion which will put immense pressure on lawmakers to make massive cuts to programs that benefit low-moderate income people including federal housing programs.” noted Michael Lyckland, President of the Public Housing Association of Rhode Island.
The House tax proposal:
· Significantly weakens the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, a successful public-private partnership that has become the foundation for affordable housing development across New England and the nation. While the credit itself is retained, it would be significantly weakened due to the corporate tax rate being significantly lowered. With less of a need for tax credits, the value of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit would drop, greatly reducing investments in low income housing by private companies. If not addressed, over the next five years, this will result in the loss of more than $35 million that could have been used to develop or preserve 400 homes for Rhode Island families.
· Eliminates the tax exemption on Private Activity Bonds, including multifamily housing bonds. This tax exemption allows bond-financed multifamily projects to access ‘4% Housing Credits,’ which have helped produce or preserve tens of thousands of affordable homes in New England. Developments financed with 4% credits often serve households with extremely low incomes, and these credits have also been used on mixed-income developments, helping to meet overall demand for market rate housing while providing rents that households with lower incomes can afford. Tax-exempt bonds are also used for reduced interest mortgages for first time homebuyers. Rhode Island currently utilizes 4% housing credits with tax exempt bond financing to preserve about 400 units every year. In addition to preserving our stock of affordable homes, that investment results in $6 million annually in construction activity, supporting 135 construction jobs.
· Eliminates the New Markets Tax Credit, a vital resource for community revitalization efforts in distressed areas. In Rhode Island, recent projects supported by the New Markets Tax Credit include Amos House, the Boys & Girls Club in Pawtucket and the Institute for Nonviolence. Housing. Between 2003 and 2015, $412.4 million in NMTC allocation leveraged an additional $405.7 million from other sources for a total of $818.1 million in project investments to 62 Rhode Island businesses and revitalization efforts, creating 8,720 jobs.
· Eliminates the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which has had a great impact in Rhode Island attracting developers to invest in once vacant, deteriorated, and underutilized structures, such as old mills, schools, and hospitals, and transforms them into much needed housing and commercial space. Hundreds of historic and iconic buildings in Rhode Island have been returned to use, creating homes resulting in tens of millions in new local tax revenues. Based on Grow Smart RI's analysis of data from the US. Census Bureau and a 2017 Rutgers University report, Rhode Island ranks first in the country on a per capita basis for its volume of recent historic rehab expenditures associated with the federal credit.
· Reforms the Mortgage Interest Deduction, which has been a long-standing effort of housing advocates and would ordinarily be a major step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the tax proposal uses the resulting savings to pay for tax cuts, not to fund new investments in affordable housing.
· Increases the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion, putting immense pressure on lawmakers in future years to make massive cuts to programs benefiting low- and moderate-income people, include federal housing programs.
HousingWorks RI at RWU is a clearinghouse of information about housing in Rhode Island. We conduct research and analyze data to inform public policy and promote dialogue about the relationship between housing and the state’s economic future and our residents’ well-being.
Public Housing Association of Rhode Island (PHARI) is an association of twenty-five public housing authorities throughout the state dedicated to providing safe, affordable and decent housing.
The Housing Network of Rhode Island is the state association of non-profit community development corporations. Our members have developed and build thousands of units of affordable housing throughout the state and initiated numerous revitalization efforts in neighborhoods across Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless is organized to promote and preserve the dignity and quality of life for men, women, and children by pursuing comprehensive and cooperative solutions to the problems of housing and homelessness.
By Christine Dunn
Journal Staff Writer
Saturday, December 02, 2017
PROVIDENCE – Foreclosed and abandoned properties that had become magnets for criminal activity in Olneyville were targeted for inclusion in Amherst Gardens, ONE Neighborhood Builders’ newest development.
ONB purchased 13 distressed properties for Amherst Gardens, and they were “strategically selected” for their nuisance effect, high visibility, proximity to existing ONB properties, and the positive impact their improvement would have on surrounding homes, according to Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins. Eight buildings had to be demolished and replaced with new homes; the others were renovated.
The result of the $10.4-million development is 36 new affordable apartments and 2 new commercial spaces in the Amherst Street neighborhood.
Hawkins joked that her predecessors, including former executive directors Frank Shea and Michael DeVos, “were really good at buying crummy properties.”
City officials at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony included Mayor Jorge Elorza, Policy Chief Col. Hugh T. Clements Jr. and Police Cmdr. Thomas Verdi, and acting City Council President Sabina Matos and City Councilman Michael Correia, who represent the Olneyville neighborhood.
Housing leaders including Nancy Smith Greer from HUD, Barbara Fields, executive director of Rhode Island Housing, Michael Tondra from the state’s Office of Housing and Community Development, Brenda Clement from HousingWorks RI and Melina Lodge from the Housing Network were also in attendance.
“Welcome to Ward 15,” Matos said at the Friday morning event, held in the first-floor commercial space at 234 Manton Ave., one of the reclaimed properties. Affordable apartments have been built above the street-level storefront.
Matos said it’s been exciting to see revitalization in Olneyville, after “we have been through so many challenges.” Olneyville was disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis. Housing prices escalated rapidly during the housing boom, then crashed after 2008.
Elorza said that today, leaders of the city’s universities and hospitals are interested in investing in Olneyville.
“Before, people didn’t want to come to Olneyville,” Matos said. But “there are a lot of decent people who live in Olneyville and they all want a chance to live a decent life.”
“I ‘heart’ Olneyville,” said Jeanne Cola of LISC Rhode Island, a project partner. “It has a unique sense of belonging and place. It truly is on the rise.”
Fields also lauded the efforts to bring safe streets and good schools” to Olneyville, but added that she is “very worried” about the tax reform effort in Washington.
The possible elimination of tax credits that support public-private affordable housing investments could undermine the work of housing advocates, she said.
On Twitter: @ChristineMDunn
Courtesy of Providence Journal
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