Affordable housing needed

Fri, 12/31/2021 - 7:15am

The following was copied to The Block Island Times:

To the Town of New Shoreham, Quasi-Town of New Shoreham institutions, and Block Island-based non profits with land stewardship:

I am asking all town governmental, quasi-governmental institutions, and Block Island non-profits to inventory the land that they have
under their responsibility for the sole purpose of identifying land that could potentially be developed for affordable rental units to Block Island residents. This inventory should not be preemptively limited by town, state or federal law, as perhaps it may be deemed appropriate to modify such laws for this purpose.

The inventory needs to include existing legal restrictions on its development so that the community may fairly assess what are our resources in this area.

For many years, we have all watched the increasingly difficult time residents who rent have in securing housing. The damage to our island is palpable. The stress, the fear, the uncertainty that we all must recognize in these people needs an island-wide effort to address.
We are increasingly becoming a bedroom community for real estate speculators who see Block Island as an investment opportunity, and not as a community. Block Island is no longer a diamond in the rough. The increasing discontinuity in income and taxation policy has only exacerbated this situation. We have seen this reality play out in other island communities: most obviously Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. It is my observation that we really have taken only very small steps to develop solutions for this critical problem. If it were not for the generosity of several individuals, Block Island would have far fewer affordable living units than it has. That is scary. It means government has not solved this problem, individuals have, and many of those who gave have left this world and there are few like them now remaining. Depending upon their generosity is not planning, nor is it a housing program.
Would you please place this request as an agenda item for discussion within your next three meetings, but no later than February 28,
The institutions I have currently as able to participate include:
Town of New Shoreham, Block Island Power Company, Town of New Shoreham Water Company, Town of New Shoreham Sewer Company, Block Island Land Trust, Nature Conservancy, Block Island Conservancy, Rhode Island Airport Corporation (to be approached by the Town of New Shoreham).
Are there others?
I think by June of 2022, we should all have a fair idea of what we have for resources for this purpose. This would put us in line for new federally-funded initiatives that are underway. We need to be prepared and start now.

I do think that this needs town leadership or at least guidance, but not by the same groups that failed to act sufficiently when it was obvious for many years that we had a very real problem. I realize it is not most governments' reputation to be innovative, but that is what is needed now. Please think of how you can accomplish this with alacrity. The sole mission of this group is to develop affordable housing units on land made available.

Christopher Warfel