Thursday, October 20, 2016

Notes from the Field: ChurchWoods Update to 10-28

by Robert Malin
You have seen the construction along Old Post Road for the ChurchWoods senior affordable housing community.

I called the Washington County Community Development Corporation, who is administrating the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and spoke to Jerry Bertrand. He said that If you are interested in submitting an application call 401-667-7185 ASAP. Bertrand said that they already have 60 applications in. However, he stated that they won't begin the official screening process until next year after they have selected a property manager. The guidelines will likely follow the usual HUD income guidelines, approximately $50,000 for a couple or $25,000 for singles, 50% of the median income. They will not know the actual numbers until 2017. 

At the invitation of Jack Donoghue, on Monday October 24th, presented this the Senior Commission as they had not been either informed of this or consulted on how the senior housing project could best address seniors needs. 

What was know was -as posted on the CCA website-The Town initiated the project with the $1 Million Affordable Housing Bond that was passed by voters in 2004. The Town invested $50,000 in Initiative funding and at closing will invest $325,000 in the acquisition of the site from the Rhode Island Episcopal Diocese...The one bedroom apartments are targeted at senior citizens already living in Charlestown, but currently stressed by insurance or other housing costs, and the burden of house upkeep with advancing age.

Since the funding is complicated -according to the Westerly Sun “the $6.3 million project will be funded from several sources: a $4.4 Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Relief from Superstorm Sandy in 2013; $1.9 million from the Rhode Island Housing Resource Commission: and the town used monies from its $1 million Affordable Housing Bond, acquired in 2004, to contribute $50,000 in initiative funding and $325,000 to acquire the parcel from the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island”- they wondered:
- what would be the selection process and where are the guidelines? 
- would it be for Charlestown residents only? HUD doesn't usually allow this restriction. 
- what will happen to the 29 seniors identified before the Sandy grant as not being able to afford the flood insurance? 

CCA Town Council liaison Denise Rhodes, who Jack claimed had only attended 2 meetings arrived late, agreed with my informational update but had nothing to add. 

Mark StankiewiczTown Administrator, who had arrived later, supposed that since was administrated through Housing and Urban Development, HUD, it would likely follow HUD guidelines and use a scoring system. 

I concurred but added that the Senior Commission needs to get their input included before the scoring guidelines are finalized. Trying to change anything afterward would stall the project and increase the cost- Stankiewicz concurred.

There has been no response. However, on Thursday October 28th an article appeared in the South County Press "Construction starts on Churchwoods project" which states this ambitious goal.

“Our goal is to release the project as we go along — the first one is building seven, so we’re going to complete that so that people could start occupying them,” she said. “The first building we’re aiming for at the end of January...grants expire September 2017.”

When are the Senior Commission's questions going to be answered? When is the property manager going to be hired? This is a public project and the public has the right to know. What is clear is that the Town Council needs to communicate more clearly and be more responsive.