Affordable housing plan proposed for Hartford Pike

Affordable housing plan proposed for Hartford Pike

HousingWorksRI describes dismal record for Scituate


Valley Breeze & Observer Correspondent

SCITUATE - In a town that has less affordable housing than almost every other community in Rhode Island, a proposal to build a condominium development on Hartford Pike that would include affordable units will go before the Plan Commission next week.

Ava Properties, and developer Lou Polseno, a town resident, have petitioned the commission for approval to build Woodland Terrace on the south side of Hartford Pike, about 1,200 feet east of Gleaner Chapel Road. The commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at Town Hall, chaired by Jeffrey C. Hanson.

Twelve two-bedroom, owner-occupied condominiums would be built in three buildings on a 2.1-acre parcel, according to plans filed at Town Hall as explained by Town Engineer David E. Provonsil. Three affordable units would be among the 12 condos.

Provonsil noted that the application has been made under a state provision, known as a comprehensive permit, which allows for an expedited review of a housing project that has at least 25 percent of its units designated as "affordable" in accord with state law.

In an effort to encourage the construction of affordable housing, the state law, Low and Moderate Income Housing Act of 2004, allows such projects to exceed density limits and other criteria usually set by local zoning laws. Woodland Terrace would be built on a site now zoned for limited business use.

"The Plan Commission acts as the town's Affordable Housing review board," Provonsil explained, "therefore they have the authority that would ordinarily be administered by the Zoning Board of Review" to issue variances and allow increased density. Construction of 12 condo units on 2.1 acres is denser than town zoning normally allows.

However, Scituate has one of the worst records in the state for the availability of affordable housing, according to 2012 statistics compiled by HousingWorks RI and included on its website .

Scituate has only 39 affordable units and needs 371 more to meet the state's mandate that 10 percent of the housing stock in every community be affordable. The town has a total of 4,102 housing units, so 410 should be affordable.

While two other communities have less affordable housing units than Scituate - Little Compton has nine and West Greenwich, 34 - neither town needs as many new affordable units to meet the 10 percent goal. Compared to Scituate's need for 371 units, Little Compton needs 153 and West Greenwich, 199.

According to federal and state standards, "affordable" means that a household spends no more than 30 percent of its gross monthly income on housing, including rent or mortgage as well as utility costs. Of the state's 445,902 year-round housing units, 36,910 are considered affordable.

Statewide, nearly half of Rhode Island renters - 46.5 percent, says HousingWorks RI - are paying 30 percent or more of income on housing, while 42.2 percent of homeowners are in the same boat. The burden of housing costs in Rhode Island is the greatest in New England, HousingWorks RI says.

The Woodland Terrace proposal has received all the necessary state permits and approvals, including a letter of eligibility from the Rhode Island Housing agency, Provonsil said. The three affordable units must sell for between $171,000 and $182,000, the agency says, "but that amount is subject to change at the finalization of the project," Provonsil said.