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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Class War: CCA tries a little misdirection

After a long lay-off, the Charlestown Citizens Alliance is once again sending out its e-bleats with a new, cleaner looking format. Not much change in the content, but at least it's easier on the eye.

Today, they sent out an e-bleat touting an editorial that ran in today's Westerly Sun (subscription required). The editorial repeats prior suggestions about rehabbing vacant and distressed properties to serve as affordable housing rentals. The Sun notes Westerly's downtown is ringed by neighborhoods with lots of multi-family housing. They note Hopkinton has found that half of their 331 rental units are vacant.

The CCA touts all this as "A BETTER Way at Looking At Affordable Housing" presumably for Charlestown.

Have you seen many of these in C-Town?
Doesn't anybody at CCA do their homework? Charlestown doesn't have a stock of three-deckers like Westerly. Charlestown doesn't have 331 rental units like Hopkinton (unless we count the summer rentals - which would be interesting).

Charlestown has a grand total of six apartments and 136 two to five family structures. We have have 52 buildings zoned as a combination of commercial and residential. We have 260 seasonal units (no heat). Check the town's inventory of property for yourself.

We also don't have a large bank of distressed properties. The leading website for tracking bank-owned and bank-auctioned properties only lists 14 distressed properties for the entire 02813 zip code.

We need 283 new rental units of affordable housing to comply with state law. I think it would be wonderful if this could be accomplished without new construction. I think it would be wonderful if it could be done by converting vacant property that is going to waste into homes for families with kids, senior citizens with cats and people who work in town but can't afford to live here.

Unless the CCA has a plan to conjure up that kind of property though, I think the best we can do is say "good luck" to Hopkinton and Westerly where they have the housing stock to put this idea to work. But here in Charlestown, where is the property CCA has in mind?

Come to think of it, if the town took those 260 seasonal structures by eminent domain (a bargain at $135 million), weatherized and heated them, plus whatever else is necessary to make them full-time housing, we'd come pretty close to our affordable housing obligation under state law. But we'll have to get rid of a lot more Chariho kids before we can afford that "solution."

Author: Will Collette