2011-11-03 / Editorial

Island group targets affordable housing needs

The dearth of affordable housing in Jamestown has been an ongoing concern for a number of years. Although the community has actively encouraged the development of affordable housing, Jamestown still does not come close to meeting the standards set by the state of Rhode Island.

Because there is a lack of affordable housing on the island, many of the people who are vital to the day-to-day functioning of the town cannot live here if they want to. Teachers, police officers, firefighters, postal clerks, those who work in local businesses and the elderly often cannot afford to rent a house or purchase a home in Jamestown. If they did own a home that may have been purchased before real estate prices went ballistic, the property taxes may now prevent them from keeping that home.

That’s a real shame and a major loss for Jamestown. Besides working in the community, these good folks are often the volunteers who help make a community such a great place to live.

This is often the case in resort communities and is a common story across our nation. About 25 percent of the homes in Jamestown are considered second homes. Demand has driven real estate prices ever higher and beyond the reach of the men and women who are considered the essential fabric of our community.

Jamestown has attempted several affordable housing projects. In the past five years, three of those projects have failed due to unforeseen circumstances. It is becoming more difficult to establish affordable housing that meets state standards.

The Equity Project was recently established by islanders to raise the awareness about local affordable housing needs. The nonprofit foundation will hold its first public forum at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Jamestown library.

The group hopes to make islanders aware of the importance of affordable housing and through education eliminate some of the social stigmas that accompany the term. People sometimes associate affordable housing with increased crime rates and drug problems. Often those are false assumptions.

Next week’s forum is an excellent opportunity for islanders to learn more about affordable housing and the efforts here to expand the island’s base. Plan to attend and learn more about what you can do to help create additional affordable housing in Jamestown.

— Jeff McDonough

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