New bill will make more eligible for housing

Thu, 04/11/2019 - 5:15pm

In order to qualify for affordable housing in Rhode Island, a person must make less than 120 percent of the median income of the community in which they live. This sets a difficult standard for Block Island, which has a higher median income than other communities. In order to make housing affordable for more people on the island, State Rep. Blake Filippi has introduced a bill — H 5451 — that would “increase the percentage of area median income from one hundred twenty percent to one hundred forty percent, only for New Shoreham residents to make more households eligible for affordable housing.”

The bill was voted on in both chambers of the Rhode Island General Assembly on Thursday, April 11, and Cindy Pappas, chair of the Housing Board, and Town Manager Ed Roberge were expected to head to the mainland to lobby for its passage. (The bill will be heard after this week’s edition goes to press.)

“This is legislation that is really important for us,” said Pappas at the Housing Board meeting on Tuesday, April 9.

According to H 5451, affordable housing “means residential housing that has a sales price or rental amount that is within the means of a household that is moderate income or less.”

The change to the income threshold will impact the pool of island residents eligible to purchase one of the five homes in the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing subdivision that will be located just off Cooneymus Road.

Bids for the project will be opened at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and the Housing Board has a special meeting planned on April 30 to review the bids.

Pappas said she had looked at a home on the mainland that was built by a contractor who has expressed interest in bidding on the project. The contractor had suggested to Pappas that in order to build an affordable home then affordable materials needed to be used. But some of the members of the board who are contractors disagreed with that assessment.

“If you go cheap up front it’s going to fail much faster,” said member Michael Kiley. Member John Spier’s worry was the upkeep. If people are in the affordable housing income bracket, then buying a home that may need constant upkeep may not be the most cost-efficient for the homeowner.

The members of the board were pleased to have three candidates for an open seat: Kim Gaffett, Stacy Henshaw, and Terri Chmiel have all expressed interest in serving.

All three names will be forwarded to the Town Council for consideration.