2007-02-01 / Editorial

EDITORIAL

Keeping island living affordable

The Town Council has endorsed a proposal to build 12 rental apartments at 44 Southwest Ave. The Town Offices now located there will be moved to Narragansett Avenue when the new town hall is completed this summer.

The words "affordable" and "housing" are a laughable contradiction in Jamestown. Currently, the least expensive home for sale in Jamestown is $339,000. This is the spot that two years ago the New York Times called one of the 10 hottest second-homes, markets in the country.

So how is a young adult who's making an honest living as a teacher, a carpenter, an electrician or a plumber expected to live here? How can our town employees ever hope to purchase a home in Jamestown? Many of us wonder if our children - if they so choose - will be able to enjoy this island life as adults.

These are not new problems. Nearby Block Island, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket have similar situations. They've become the playgrounds of the rich.

Presently, Jamestown has less than half the number of affordable housing units than are required by the state. Local plans call for at least 40 new units to be added during the next five years. The town is also working with a couple of developers on building affordable housing.

One option that the town should consider is enacting a real estate transfer tax. A modest tax of 1 to 1.5 percent could be used to create a fund for the development of affordable housing and the preservation of open space.

Other communities have successfully used such a tax for similar purposes - most notably Block Island. The argument that a transfer tax would depress real estate values and choke sales is ridiculous. Block Island is home to some of the highest priced real estate in the state.

Let's continue working to make the island life attainable for everyone.

- Jeff McDonough

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