Housing Board seeks signatures on petition

Bill would raise income limits for island affordable housing
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 5:45pm

The Block Island Housing Board is preparing a petition urging the Rhode Island legislature to pass a bill that would allow more residents to qualify for affordable housing on the island. Housing Board members will be collecting voters’ signatures on the petition this weekend, and plan to present it to the General Assembly next week.

“It’s all about increasing the pool of applicants,” Chair Cindy Pappas said to the Housing Board members at their meeting on Tuesday, May 14. The proposed legislation, House Bill 5451, would increase the income ceiling for persons eligible for affordable housing income on Block Island to 140 percent of the median income for island residents. The ceiling in state law is 120 percent of area median income adjusted for family size statewide.

“When you do the math,” Pappas continued, the higher income limit “would put us in the same group as Newport, Bristol and Middletown. That’s the number we’re asking for, 20 percent more than Block Island. I don’t feel like we’re asking for the moon.”

Pappas testified in favor of both the House bill and a similar, but not identical, bill in the State Senate on April 11. The full Senate passed its version on May 2 and referred it to the State House of Representatives’ Committee on Municipal Government, which has taken no action on either bill.

At the Housing Board meeting, members agreed to compose a petition requesting the House to pass the proposed legislation. Because the General Assembly’s timetable for action is somewhat unpredictable, the board intends to gather signatures and submit the completed petition as soon as possible.

As of press time, the plan was to have one copy of the petition available for registered voters to sign at the Island Free Library as soon as Friday, May 17. Each board member will also be collecting signatures over the weekend of May 17 through 19. The petition will be sent to the State House before Memorial Day weekend.

In other news, the Housing Board has set a May 31 deadline for its third Request for Proposals (RFP) seeking contractors to build five affordable homes in its Cherry Hill Lane development off Cooneymus Road. The original RFP yielded two proposals last fall, both priced far above the available funding. The third round became necessary when errors were discovered in the RFP documents prepared for the second round.

Bids will be received until 3 p.m. on Friday, May 31, and opened and read aloud at that time. The bids will be reviewed and discussed at a special meeting on Tuesday, June 4 at 7 p.m. The Board plans to award a contract to the successful bidder at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 11 at 7 p.m. All meetings will be at the Town Hall.