More affordable in Pawtucket

Pawtucket officials have authorized purchasing this former group home at 575 Fountain St. to convert it into new affordable housing.

PAWTUCKET – In September of 1960, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation acquired land in Pawtucket for the construction of I-95.

Upon completion of the highway, a 7,708-square-foot property on Fountain Street in the city was deemed to be surplus property, and in 1990, a 2,400-square-foot group home was built on the site.

The group home has since been abandoned, and as with other surplus properties here and elsewhere, the state is now offloading it.

The Pawtucket City Council last week approved purchasing the property at 575 Fountain St. from the state for $285,000, and officials will now seek bids from companies to develop two new units of affordable housing here, the third such move in recent months.

The city previously acquired similar surplus properties on Owen Avenue and Beechwood Avenue, and, according to officials, there have been a combined five bids on those two properties, including three at Owen Avenue and two at Beechwood Avenue.

Councilor Terry Mercer, speaking as head of the property subcommittee prior to the Jan. 5 council meeting, says he thinks this is a great approach to bringing more affordable housing to the city of Pawtucket, as the city is “not putting it on the back of for-profit developers” looking to create new housing projects near the new train station.

The adjusted range of values for other sales in the area came in between $281,400 and $292,600, putting this price point right in the middle.

The city will use some of its American Rescue Plan Act funding to make the purchase.

Tax Assessor Bob Burns said the property is in tough shape, with plenty of deferred maintenance, but it’s still fairly recent construction.

According to officials, a replacement could include a gut rehab or total tear-down, with two units of affordable housing, either one on top of the other or as a side-by-side duplex, likely the most that could fit here.

All of the specifics related to development would be the same as the others, including a 30-year deed restriction, and eligibility for state and local subsidies. Mercer said as long as the dollars work, this is a great reuse of the property.

The city last month released an affordable housing report detailing aggressive plans to increase Pawtucket’s affordable housing stock to 10 percent, including continued purchases of surplus properties with a goal of acquiring 400 more units by 2032.

Approximately 38 percent of Pawtucket homeowners and 48 percent of local renters are cost burdened. When those people are forced to spend so much of their income on housing, said Mayor Donald Grebien’s affordable housing report for 2021-2022, it means less money spent invested in the local community, while putting stress on families to make ends meet.

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