Discussion held to mull over long-term affordable housing
The Newport County Chamber of Commerce and HousingWorks RI recently convened elected offi- cials along with business and community leaders in Newport County to discuss long-term affordable housing and its importance to the economy.
“Our members understand the necessity of having a quality stock of affordable homes for their workforce,” said Jody Sullivan, executive director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce. “We were happy to be able to host this roundtable discussion to hear more from them about how housing affordability is affecting our local economy.”
The breakfast convening featured a presentation of local affordability and foreclosure data that was recently published in the 2011 Housing Works RI Fact Book on housing. The data showed Jamestown as the least affordable community in the county, with the 2010 median price of the singlefamily home there at $450,000. The annual income required to afford that priced home is $124,361, yet the average private-sector wage for jobs in the town is just $32,864.
“In an area that relies so heavily on the tourism industry, you’re not going to have the wages to afford the median-price of single-family homes here,” said Nellie M. Gorbea, executive director for HousingWorks RI. “But even more alarming are the high rental costs in the area. In Newport, for example, the average price for a twobedroom rental is $1,311, which is $521 more a month than what would be considered affordable rent for the average-private sector wage.”
The discussion also highlighted the overwhelming success of the state’s $50 million housing bond, known as Building Homes Rhode Island. Passed in 2006 by a majority of voters in every city and town, Building Homes Rhode Island resulted in the development of 171 affordable apartments and 9 affordable home ownership opportunities in Newport County. Overall, the program helped to create 1,255 long-term affordable homes in 30 of the state’s 39 communities – 255 more than originally anticipated.
“The program is providing quality homes for low-wage workers, individuals with disabilities, young working families, the formerly homeless, veterans, and the elderly,” said Gorbea. “But more than that, BHRI has helped area businesses, communities and the state’s economy overall.” Highlights of the economic impact of Building Homes Rhode Island include:
• The $50 million invested have multiplied nearly 16 times throughout the state economy generating about $800 million in total economic activity.
• The construction activity supported by BHRI accounted for 53 percent of the total estimated cost of residential construction permitted in Rhode Island from 2007 to 2010.
• At a time of record-high unemployment numbers, BHRI supported 6,100 jobs in Rhode Island. “Clearly Rhode Island needs to do more to promote economic growth through the development of longterm affordable homes,” Gorbea said.