News & Event
By Mary MacDonald- July 10, 2019 10:30 pm
Jennifer Hawkins is the executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, a nonprofit that is working on community-development initiatives in several neighborhoods in Providence. She provided an update on projects and priorities for the organization.
PBN: What is King Street Commons and who will it provide housing for?
HAWKINS: In 2013, we issued a neighborhood revitalization plan called the Build Olneyville plan. It was funded by the [Department of Housing and Urban Development] Choice Neighborhoods initiative.
The idea was how do we connect the Providence Housing development called Manton Heights, which is in the neighborhood, along with the next of the neighborhood. It was physically isolated. The only way to access Riverside Park and that area was through this street that had been closed with Jersey barriers for years because of illegal dumping and crime.
The idea was how do we strategically redevelop this blighted part of the neighborhood that cuts off this public housing from the rest of the neighborhood. We will be constructing 30 apartments and 8,500 square feet of an early childhood education center. It will be four Head Start classrooms. The provider we have selected is Children’s Friend.
King Street Commons has two components: new construction of 30 new apartments and the 8,500-square-foot early childhood center, plus the renovation and re-syndication of 32 apartments that were originally constructed in 2001 in the Elmwood neighborhood. In total, it is 62 units.
PBN: For the new construction portion of this project, are the Head Start classrooms part of the building itself?
HAWKINS: Yes. There are actually going to be four apartments above. It’s a mixed-use [project]. There are seven distinct buildings. It’s townhome-style. The total project is $17.2 million.
PBN: Is the lease for Children’s Friend the first time you’ve worked with them? Why a Head Start use, is there demand for that in the neighborhood?
HAWKINS: Exactly. It came out of that neighborhood revitalization plan, really identifying a lack of high-quality, early childhood care. Across the street, Children’s Friend has been operating a Head Start program, really successful but over-subscribed.
PBN: When does the construction start?
HAWKINS: We hope to close in December and start construction in the first quarter of 2020. HUD has allowed this program for income averaging, and that’s how we do it.
Normally, for low-income housing tax credit projects, the income of any household cannot exceed 60% of area median income. What this allows you to do is as long as the average is 60%, you can go a little over. That really helps from a marketing standpoint. We have a wider swath of people that we can offer apartments to.
PBN: When the PBN last interviewed you, you identified the scarcity of affordable housing as the most pressing issue facing Providence. Has it gotten worse or better since 2017?
HAWKINS: It has only gotten more acute. The wage stagnation and the increased rental prices, wages just aren’t keeping pace with that. It continues to be a very severe problem and we are just not able to produce at that level.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at email@example.com.
Courtesy of Providence Business News
By Mary MacDonald- April 17, 2019 10:30 pm
The Providence Preservation Society has chosen the Paterson Park neighborhood, part of the Blackstone Park Historic District, as the location for its 39th Festival of Historic Houses. While the list of individual homes open for tours is still being identified, the society has made plans to introduce a less-well-known historic district to the public. The neighborhood is part of a national historic district. It is bounded by the Seekonk River, Angell Street, Blackstone Boulevard and President and Laurel avenues. Executive Director Brent Runyon spoke to the Providence Business News this week about the event, to be held June 15-16.
PBN: Why was this area chosen for the 2019 historic home tour?
RUNYON: We thought about it about three years ago. It’s a neighborhood we’ve been in twice before, in the ’90s and the early 2000s. It’s one of those neighborhoods that’s really off the beaten track. It has some great history that we want to explore, and quality houses. Clearly representative of a very large majority of Providence homes. More recently, with the threat of [a historic home] demolition on Blackstone, it’s also a good way for us to point out that while these seem to be historic houses, they are not protected.
PBN: The writer H.P. Lovecraft lived in this area. Is his home still standing?
RUNYON: He lived with his parents in other apartments in the neighborhood. We’re not going inside any. We worked with Donovan Loucks [creator of a Lovecraft website, the H.P. Lovecraft Archive], who identified 15 other houses that we know Lovecraft had some relationship with. We are developing a brand-new tour. We are calling it a Young Lovecraft tour. It will be where he grew up, and some things [that influenced] him until his teens.
PBN: When you organize one of these home festivals, are homeowners jockeying to be included? Or is it the opposite, and you’re cajoling some into opening up their homes?
RUNYON: It varies. Typically, we’re cajoling. Some people are really proud to show it off, but it is a big lift for people. [The process] starts with who do we know. Who do we know who know other people. And then we evaluate them to see if they’d be suitable for the tour.
PBN: What are some of the can’t-miss items?
RUNYON: Because the area is so related to open space, we’re doing a tour of Gladys Potter Park. One of our former board members will do a presentation on it. And the Blackstone Parks Conservancy will do a tour of some of the parks over there. We really want to highlight the landscape as more than just buildings.
PBN: What are the tour dates?
RUNYON: The preview party is June 13. The primary house tour is June 15. And the walking tour is June 16. [Tickets] will be on sale next week.
By Mary MacDonald-October 12, 2017 4:30 am
PBN: What is the most encouraging trend in this year’s report?
CLEMENT: First of all, we did see an increase in building permits. That’s a good thing. But we still rank last, on a per capita basis, for the past six years. But we have seen some communities up their amounts. As the market is recovering, we are seeing some recovery in building and developing units. Twenty-five percent of those were for multifamily units, which is also a good trend. Our biggest need is going to be in multifamily.
PBN: What is the most discouraging trend?
CLEMENT: The most discouraging thing is if you make anything under $30,000 a year, you can’t reasonably afford to own anything or rent anything, anywhere in the state. Under $50,000, you can afford six communities, but that’s down from 11. Even more moderate-income workers are struggling in this economy.
PBN: One of the statistics in the report is that to meet future demand, the number of building permits for multifamily will have to grow at three times the current rate each year. How is that possible?
CLEMENT: It’s a steep challenge. What multifamily is, looks different in different communities. In a suburban or a more rural location, that might be duplexes or accessory dwelling units. But we clearly have to look at opportunities, particularly around transit nodes and other areas to provide more density in those locations, as part of the incentive for developers, so we can create more units. We also need to bring more units that are offline, online.
PBN: What incentives can be used to encourage towns to approve these developments, particularly those that would appeal to families of school-age children?
CLEMENT: We have to look at the school aid formula, we have to look at other ways to provide incentives. Our neighboring state, Massachusetts, has an [inclusive] law … that provides extra school aid for communities that develop additional family units and family housing. There are different incentives we can look at. It has to be the right mix of incentives. … The communities are a key partner. We want communities to be a willing partner, not one we’re going to have to keep dragging in.
PBN: We’ve had price escalation in real estate across the state, and across property types. Is it disproportionately affecting renters?
CLEMENT: Even homeowners have considerable cost burdens. Households with mortgages have a 37 percent housing cost burden, which means they’re paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing. You can particularly see this as they age, or retire. Many seniors want to age in place, but keeping that roof over their head becomes even more of a struggle. There is no one easy solution.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at MacDonald@PBN.com. Follow on Twitter at MaryF_MacDonald.
Courtesy of Providence Business News
By Mary MacDonald - January 25, 2018 4:30 am
Rhode Island has an aging population and one of the oldest housing stocks in the country. To help the physically disabled and seniors remain in their homes, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara, D-Warwick, has introduced a bill that would provide a tax credit for improvements meant to make houses accessible.
His bill (2018-H 7142) would provide a credit against state personal income tax worth 50 percent of the renovation cost, up to a maximum of $5,000. The bill would apply to retrofits of existing houses and new homes that have accessible features.
McNamara, who was first elected in 1994, argues the loss of state tax revenue will be more than made up by lessened state expenditures on nursing home care. He spoke to the Providence Business News this week about his bill.
PBN: You first introduced the bill last session. What is the feeling this year on its passage?
MCNAMARA: We got the bill in and it was very well-received. This year, we have a lot of momentum going forward with it. The most important aspect of it is when you look at seniors who are living in our communities, it’s an increasing demographic in this state. It is much more cost-effective for government to keep people in their homes as long as possible. You make up for it at the other end, in less nursing home placements. Plus, you are building an inventory of homes that have already been modified.
PBN: Can you describe some of the modifications that would qualify for a tax credit?
MCNAMARA: Zero-step entrances, either no steps or a ramp leading up. Also, 32-inch-wide doors [to accommodate wheelchairs], and accessible bathrooms.
PBN: Explain how the tax credit is applied.
MCNAMARA: It’s 50 percent of the cost of an approved modification, which is spelled out in other statutes relating to accessibility. It goes through the qualified tax credit and would be reviewed by the Governor’s Office on Disabilities.
PBN: How much would this cost the state in revenue?
MCNAMARA: The total amount granted, in any fiscal year, would be no more than $250,000.
PBN: Is that going to be a hard sell in this current fiscal climate, when the state budget is expected to include cuts to many programs?
MCNAMARA: When we look at funding, when people are moving out of their homes, it’s an investment in the future going forward. And $250,000 may seem like a lot, but when you’re building a group of homes that will be accessible for many years in the future, you’re really building an asset that’s going to pay back in reduced payments for those nursing homes.
By Mary MacDonald-June 21, 2018 4:30 am
Joseph Luca, president of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, recently spoke to the Providence Business News about the upward trend for sales and appreciation in the multifamily category. In May, the median price for the sale of buildings with two or more units rose 20 percent. And the inventory rose as well, by 16 percent.
PBN: What is happening with the multifamily market? In one month, we had a 20 percent surge it seems in price.
LUCA: I wouldn’t classify it as a surge. It’s been pretty consistent over the past year that prices have been increasing. There has been steady demand. A lot of times if you have a house and it’s listed at $200,000, and a lot of people are interested, and it ends up selling for $210,000, the appraisers, they have the offers to support that it’s worth that much. That value is supported by what’s going on in the marketplace. We’re moving the distressed properties from the marketplace. Right now, the average cost of a multifamily is $246,000.
PBN: Are the rents a factor? Are the prices escalating because rents are going up in these units?
LUCA: There is definitely a correlation there. I don’t know if it’s causal. If you can buy a property in Woonsocket … if you have a three-unit property there, with three bedrooms per unit, you’re going to get $1,500 a month for each three-bedroom unit. These are nice, fully remodeled units. That’s $4,500 a month. You can support a lot of debt service with $4,500 a month.
PBN: Who are these buyers, are they individuals, companies?
LUCA: Sometimes they are [individuals]. I had a conversation with a buyer last night. He had been wanting to buy a multifamily house. Smart guy, has been looking for properties, and finding good value. Multifamily was his first choice. But the prices are high. And he thought, you know what, maybe I should just buy a single-family. The single individual, not an investor, this was going to be a homeowner-occupied multifamily.
PBN: Where are the hot cities for this? Suburban cities, such as Cranston or Warwick?
LUCA: Suburban cities, [such as] Cranston, Warwick, they have their opportunities. But you can get really good values in cities [such as] Providence, West Warwick, Central Falls. Central Falls is really hot. There are folks who … from an investor perspective, if I’m going to buy an investment property in Central Falls, I should probably buy a second one, so when I send my snowplow guy around, he doesn’t have to go 25 minutes between each property. That’s part of it.
PBN: I’m curious. Given the uncertainty over the Pawtucket Red Sox, has that had a depressing effect on sales in Pawtucket? Or is the opposite true?
LUCA: It’s so competitive out there, for folks to find a house, they’re not even looking at that.
By Mary MacDonald - January 24, 2019 4:30 am
Eric L. Hirsch, a professor of sociology at Providence College, recently released a report through HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University that focused on the needs of the homeless population in Rhode Island.
The report, called “How to End Long-Term Homelessness in Rhode Island,” calls for greater investment by the state to counter a shortage of affordable apartments and increased rental subsidies for families and individuals.
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