2011-08-25 / Editorial

Let’s keep longtime islanders in Jamestown

VIEWPOINT
BY DAVID LONG

When I was growing up, Rhode Islanders who lived up north (Providence, Cranston, Warwick) would wonder why anyone would want to live on sleepy, boring Jamestown. No malls, no public pools, just an old ferry and a scary bridge. Land on the island was relatively cheap but mainlanders thought it was too remote.

How things have changed. Now if you live on Jamestown, you are privileged in the eyes of fellow Rhode Islanders. People assume you are wealthy. They assume you have a nice boat. Everyone thinks you are fortunate. Well, in fact, we are fortunate. But not everyone living on Jamestown is wealthy and not everyone can afford a nice boat. Many families have been living and working on Jamestown for years or even generations. These families helped shape Jamestown’s character and strong sense of community that we all treasure. They include our shopkeepers, town employees, volunteer firemen, volunteer rescue workers and policemen.

Life is good here. The downside is, the very people who helped shape Jamestown are finding it harder and harder to afford a home on Jamestown, even if they have lived here their entire life.

Creating housing that can be afforded by people who want to both work and live here is essential to Jamestown’s diversity and intergenerational continuity. We are fortunate to have a committed nonprofi t housing developer, Church Community Housing Corporation, which has long served Jamestown and all Newport County.

Also, a commitment from the town is evidenced in the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan and through the yearly budget line-item support of housing development projects in Jamestown that have helped some working individuals and families remain on the island. But beyond that, affordability has been left to chance, either the result of good fortune, generations of family occupancy or real estate deals made before the mid-eighties.

The Jamestown Equity Project is a recently formed Jamestown nonprofi t organization that is trying to address this housing-cost dilemma by working with the town and existing agencies in seeking to facilitate a better understanding of the challenges and the solutions.

For anyone interested in learning more about helping Jamestowners stay in Jamestown, the Equity Project is hosting an informative presentation on Nov. 9 at the Jamestown Philomenian Library at 6:30 p.m. For more information, they can also be found online at jamestownequityproject.org.

The author is a former Jamestown Town Council president.

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