FHLBB: Bringing Back A Residential Neighborhood in Rhode Island

The abandoned site on Branch Street in Pawtucket, R.I., was an eyesore. Overgrown with weeds, an area that had once been a thriving neighborhood surrounded by mill buildings, had become a dumping ground and troublesome magnet for vandalism and other crime.

“It was not only an eyesore, it was a detriment to the health of the neighborhood,” said Andrew Pierson, associate director of real estate development and administration at Pawtucket Central Falls Development.

Pawtucket Central Falls Development, a nonprofit community development corporation, set out to revitalize the area. The nonprofit organization applied for Low Income Housing Tax Credits and secured funding from multiple sources to embark on a $10.8 million development project known as Branch Blackstone.

The development involves the creation of 29 new affordable housing units in four buildings along Branch Street by the Blackstone River in Pawtucket as well as the rehabilitation of 17 affordable apartments on five scattered sites in Pawtucket and Central Falls.

“Our goal was to bring back a residential neighborhood of Pawtucket,” Pierson said.

Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston member Pawtucket Credit Union received a $500,000 grant through the Bank's Affordable Housing Program and also provided a $500,000 construction loan for the initiative.

“Transforming Branch Street from a blighted, neglected street to a vibrant affordable neighborhood with play space for children and greenspace for all is such an exciting opportunity,” said Joseph Silva, senior vice president of commercial lending at Pawtucket Credit Union. “The new construction and rehab of the additional affordable units in the area will make an enormous impact in the community, and we are proud to have been able to participate.”

Grants from the Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Program were used to clean up the contaminated Branch Street site and prepare it for construction. Construction started in June 2017.

Branch Blackstone is affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of the area median income with monthly rents ranging from $650 to $1,000. Pierson noted that five units are reserved for households earning up to 30 percent of the area median income, while the majority of the units are for households earning below 50 percent of the area median income.

The mix of one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments range in size from 600 square feet up to 1,200 square feet. The first completed units were occupied almost immediately.

Annika Daluz, 30, is one of the new residents. Frustrated during her housing search when she toured apartments in Providence and Pawtucket that were in disrepair and well above her budget, Daluz learned about Branch Blackstone through a friend.

She completed an application, was placed on a waiting list, and was excited when she learned she could move into one of the newly constructed units.

“I kept driving by and seeing the construction and hoped that I would get one of the new apartments but didn't think I would,” she said.

Daluz moved into a two-bedroom apartment with her 2-year-old daughter in August 2018.

“The fact that it's brand new and that I can afford to live here - it's just incredible,” said Daluz, who pays $800 for rent.

Daluz appreciates the parking, security, and convenience of living within close proximity to her job in Attleboro. She is also happy that Pawtucket Central Falls Development is attentive to any maintenance issue that arises.

“It's wonderful,” she says of living there.

Courtesy of Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston

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