2007-01-25 / Front Page

Two properties considered for affordable housing

By Michaela Kennedy

Two properties in the downtown district were approved by the Affordable Housing Committee on Monday night for Planning Commission endorsement. One lot, publicly owned, is the site of the Town Offices at 44 Southwest Ave. The other property, privately owned, is located at 24 Narragansett Ave.

Committee Chairman Nick Robertson stressed the importance of pursuing affordable housing on the island without delay. "What we do here does have a lot of positive impact," he said.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer briefed the committee about the site at Southwest Avenue, which the town has targeted for an affordable housing development plan. "The opportunity is coming up in July," she said. According to the municipal schedule, the current Southwest Avenue offices will be moved to the new town hall on Narragansett Avenue by this summer.

Bryer noted that the town has submitted an application for $500,000 to the Rhode Island Housing Authority to support the proposal for affordable rental units.

Brigid Ryan, senior project manager for Church Community Housing Corp. of Newport reviewed the application process for the town to obtain subsidies in the form of grant money, loans, and tax credits to support an affordable housing project. She noted that the federal government gives grant money to the state for distribution. She also listed other grant possibilities through local organi- zations, including the Jamestown Housing Fund and East Bay Community Action.

Ryan said the use of a general equity fund, from which over $770,000 in tax credits can be received. She warned that tax credit projects were not easy to implement, given that the programs were done through the Internal Revenue Service. "Lots of layers of requirements need to be met," she added.

Other grants mentioned by Ryan included the Jamestown Housing Fund and East Bay Community Action.

According to Ryan, Jamestown would seek a limited partnership, which would be approved by the state for eligibility to develop affordable housing. "The first partner has 99 percent ownership and one percent control. The second partner has one percent ownership but 99 percent control," she explained, adding that the town would have to apply for a comprehensive permit.

Bryer told the committee and the CCH representative that the town had the ordinance in place to proceed with a comprehensive application. The newly adopted ordinance gives the Planning Commission authority to review and approve of all regulatory aspects of an affordable housing development.

The committee went on to discuss the details of the plan for affordable rental units at tSouthwest Avenue, and unanimously approved the application. The proposal calls for three one-bedroom units, six two-bedroom units, and three threebedroom apartments. When questioned by committee member Ginny Perry about the number of apartments, Bryer noted that 12 was the minimum goal to qualify for the development.

Ryan praised Jamestown, saying the island was "progressive and innovative in its goals."

Robertson also praised the plan, saying, "This offers the best opportunity we've had in years."

The committee also voted unanimously to support the affordable housing plan at 24 Narragansett Ave. Owners Raymond and Karyn Bazzano outlined their development plan, which would offer four condominiums for sale with affordable housing subsidies. "Condo fees are taken into consideration," Raymond Bazzano noted. He also noted that CCH was "just approved as the monitoring agent."

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