2009-04-09 / News

Planning Commission gives seal of approval to $453k grant

By Tyler Will

With a large emphasis on affordable housing and the town's Comprehensive Community Plan in mind, the Jamestown Planning Commission passed a proposal for a Community Development Block Grant last week at Town Hall.

The grant proposal, submitted to the commission by Town Planner Lisa Bryer, totals $453,000, and the document shows almost half of that sum will go towards the building of affordable housing units. Smaller sums went to social services, such as $10,000 to provide matching funds to Friends of Jamestown Seniors for a senior activity van.

The town requested $200,000 to "provide funding to Church Community Housing Corporation for the acquisition" of apartments, which Bryer said will make two single-family homes and a six- to eight-apartment unit. CCHC is a non-profit organization based in Newport, and the grant proposal said the construction fits the Comprehensive Plan's goals to increase the availability of affordable housing.

The money starts at the federal level, Bryer said, and is filtered down to states, which send it to communities. The town applies every year, and the applications are competitive.

"We've never received 100 percent, but I would be happy with 50 percent," Bryer said after the meeting.

If the town receives the requested housing construction funds, Bryer said that money will be supplemented with several other funding sources, such as Rhode Island Housing.

Bryer said the town has applied every year since 1987, and the amount the town has received has varied significantly.

In addition to the housing construction request, the proposal Bryer gave the commission also requests $140,750 for cosmetic repairs to the 20-unit Bayside Apartments Affordable Housing Development. Commissioner Nancy Bennett asked what the needs were, and Bryer said some of the apartments had mold and deterioration. After the meeting, she said some window sills are rotting, insulation needs to be replaced, and the building needs general maintenance.

CHCC Senior Project Manager Brigid Ryan said the last time the buildings had repairs was 1990.

The large proportion of housing funds is not indicative of the Comprehensive Plan, but reflective of the cost of construction.

"That's really our need at this point," Bryer said. "Housing is such a high cost, that's why it seems so high on our list."

The Comprehensive Plan, last updated Sept. 20, 2004 according to the website, said 89 percent of the housing in Jamestown is single family homes, and its average cost in 1999 was $249,500.

Less than half a percent of the town's housing is apartments, according to the plan.

And, a community survey in 1998 said about 11.5 percent of the Jamestown population had an annual income of less $35,999. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,000 and $120,000.

The CDBG report said the Jamestown Comprehensive Plan said "the use of regional and county services generally works well in Jamestown and it is recommended that the town continue to utilize this type of arrangement."

The report includes several requests for community programs, including a $5,000 for educational programs to the Women's Resource Center, $5,000 for health and dental services funding for the East Bay Community Action program, $20,000 for the Regional Revolving Loan Fund, and several other social services programs.

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