The Middletown Affordable Housing Committee meets Wednesday night and draws considerable interest from residents. Town officials remind everyone there is affordable housing development approved or being considered in Town, but agree more work is needed.
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AFFORDABLE HOUSING ATTRACTS INTEREST
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (SEPTEMBER 29, 2021) – The work of the Town’s Affordable Housing Committee is attracting interest.
During a meeting Wednesday from the Fire Station community room, there were at least 30 residents on hand to hear the latest from the volunteer board and where things were heading with affordable housing.
No formal proposals were put forward, but committee members generally agreed eligible properties typically needed to be at least five acres, on a bus line, with water, sewer and not landlocked. Town officials said for the financials of an affordable housing project to work for Middletown, it needed at least 50 units on one site or a combination of locations.
During the group’s next session on Oct. 21 at 6 p.m., the Affordable Housing Committee is expected to discuss a list of Town owned properties for potential development. Ultimately, it’s up to the Town Council to decide what to do with affordable housing – if anything. There’s currently no plan before the council and the item isn’t expected for conversation until the Affordable Housing Committee completes its work.
“We want to always be aware of what the feeling is of the public and make sure that your voices are heard,” said Liz Morancy, the Affordable Housing Committee member who led the meeting.
The idea of making housing more affordable for all has been the subject of frequent talk over the years.
However, it really seemed to take off in Middletown in the summer of 2018. That’s when the Town formed a Senior Affordable Housing Committee to investigate options, focusing on the community’s older residents.
Out of those talks, several ideas were put forward, with plans to repurpose the former Peckham School next to the Middletown Senior Center emerging as the most viable option.
Earlier this year, a group of neighbors to the Green End Avenue site expressed concerns. They said the new three-story, 40-unit building being proposed there did not fit into the character of the area and was way too intense a use for the property.
Hearing those issues, the Town Council hit pause on those plans and decided to revisit the entire subject of affordable housing for all, not just seniors.
Since then, the Town’s Affordable Housing Committee has met several times to go over the issues and where work was needed.
In the meantime, plans for a new mixed commercial-residential project were filed with the Town for the former Skater Island property at 1747 West Main Road. Known as “Rosebrook Commons,” the proposal before the Planning Board includes 144 apartments, 51 of which would be affordable. That item is on the Planning Board’s Oct. 14 agenda for consideration. To learn more about the project, visit https://middletownri.com/504/Planning-Board-Meeting-Packetsonline and choose “Special Meeting Mesolella.”
According to Town statistics, there are approximately 355 affordable housing units currently in Middletown. That’s about 5.2 percent of the total housing in the community, about 5 percent less than the state’s 10 percent threshold.
Despite some perceptions, Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said there is affordable housing development being discussed and happening in Middletown. In addition to the plans at 1747 West Main Road, Brown said there are proposals that have been approved or put forward across the community totaling 117 new units. Of those, Brown said 105 were considered affordable. At the same time, Brown said there are several smaller residential projects in Town as well totaling about 40 units.
“There is an awareness of the need for housing in Middletown and that the private sector is addressing that in some way,” Brown said. “It’s noteworthy to recognize that it’s happening and there is some benefit to this because it’s private investment, it’s not public funds, and it’s meeting the goals the Town wants to achieve.”
Town affordable housing consultant Frank Spinella said just the talk alone in Middletown about the issue was having a positive impact.
“You having this committee is actually working because you’re seeing now affordable housing proposals coming from the private sector,” Spinella said. “You are spurring that housing by just having the discussions…The fact is they’re coming to you, where there were no proposals for any developments five months ago.”