Church’s affordable housing project funded

Fri, 02/09/2018 - 8:45am

“It’s an idea whose time has come.”

That’s what Tony Pappas said about the four one-bedroom affordable rental apartments that will be built at the Harbor Church for a price tag of about $450,000 and be ready for occupancy in January of 2019. Pappas spoke with The Block Island Times about the project, his brainchild, after a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Review on Tuesday night.

In order for the apartments to qualify as affordable housing they must be granted a special use permit under the affordable housing provisions of the town’s section 405 Zoning Ordinance. Pappas submitted his application for a special use permit to the Zoning Board on Nov. 15.

“The good news is that no one has voiced any negativity about this project,” said Pappas, who noted that the goal was “to help stabilize affordable rental housing for the year-round community.” Pappas said the project’s $450,000 budget is being funded by donations and grants, including a $100,000 loan from the Roosa Fund of Block Island Ecumenical Ministries, a $150,000 grant, and two private donations.

“I’m hoping that we don’t have to use the loan” in constructing the project, said Pappas. He credited project manager Herman Mast with creating a plan and budget for the project. “Herm’s goal is to use high-quality materials.”

Pappas called the project a “major renovation” that will involve gutting the third floor of the church to construct the 400-square-foot apartments, which will have full kitchens and bathrooms and be equipped with new appliances. He said the rooms “will have great views” of Old Harbor and the downtown area.

Pappas said the apartments would be connected to town sewer and water, have sprinklers and fire alarms, be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and meet the state’s affordable housing criteria. The apartments will count toward Rhode Island’s Affordable Housing requirement that 10 percent of each municipality’s housing stock be affordable. 

Bill Penn, who was in attendance at the meeting, and is a member of the Harbor Church and its Stewardship Committee, said that all of the windows in the Harbor Church were recently replaced; funded by a Champlin grant. “The building is structurally sound,” he said, while also noting that the church is located in the Island’s historic district.

Penn said the “previous usage of the church’s third floor was for Halloween parties,” to which Pappas remarked, “This is a much better usage” of the space.

As for who will occupy the apartments once they’re built, Pappas said that would likely be determined by a lottery. “We’re forming a 501(c)3 corporation, with a board to manage the property,” he said, noting that rent for an apartment of this type, based on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development standards, “is about $967 per month. Our intention is to charge less than that.”

Pappas said five people have already told him that they want to move into the apartments once they’re built. “So we know there’s a need.”