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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Charlestown's need for affordable housing

Over the coming months, we're going to talking about affordable housing a lot.

Charlestown needs NEW affordable housing - we need to add 283 units to comply with the state's mandate. But we also need affordable housing because it's the right thing to do.

Without new affordable housing, grown children will have to leave. Downsizing retirees will have to leave. Town workers will not be able to live here. And Charlestown will continue to be a closed, insulated little community.

To debate the issue intelligently, we all need to face the facts, so here they are:

Charlestown at a Glance:The town of Charlestown covers 59.3 square miles, 22.5 of which is water.

Housing Facts: 2009Typical monthly housing payment* for a $288,000 house - $1,815
Household income required to afford a $288,000 house - $72,618
Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment - $1,170
Household income required for that rent to be affordable - $46,800
Average private-sector wage for jobs in Charlestown - $32,916

Housing Units in CharlestownNumber of year-round housing units - 3,318
Housing units that quality as affordable - 49
Affordable housing units reserved for the elderly - 0
Affordable housing units reserved for families - 9
Affordable housing units reserved for persons with special needs - 40
Homes funded through Building Homes Rhode Island - 1

How much housing is needed?Additional housing units necessary to meet the 10% threshold established by the State's Low and Moderate Income Housing Act of 2004 - 283

*Calculated using a 30-year mortgage at 5.04% interest (2009 average rate) with a 5.75% down payment (which includes a 3.5% down payment and a 2.25% one-time mortgage insurance fee), property taxes (the state's average rate of $14.36 per $1,000 of the home's valuation), hazard insurance ($60/month), and monthly mortgage insurance (0.6%/month).
Other important statistics: Charlestown's permanent population is 8081 (2009). Our population is over 11% older than the Rhode Island average. Only 16% of Charlestown households rent, compared with the Rhode Island average of 40%.
We already looked at how the Charlestown Citizens Alliance wants to resolve this need. Through its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Charletown Planning Commission, and the CCA-controlled Town Council, we now have a Do-It-Yourself approach enshrined in law (AFDUs and I-RADUs).
But is there a better way? We think so, and will say so over the coming weeks.
What do you think?
- Will Collette