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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Charlestown Affordable Housing – facts versus CCA fiction

Compare the real data to George Tremblay’s imaginary numbers
This book is NOT on George Tremblay's reading
list. He prefers to make up his own facts.

Why the tin foil hat? Tremblay insulted one of my
colleagues by calling her "the lady in the tin foil
hat." He either didn't get Ron Areglado's memo
or he didn't look in the mirror.
By Will Collette

HousingWorksRI is Rhode Island’s leading authority on affordable housing, and its annual report is commonly accepted around the state as the primary book for people who want the truth about affordable housing, as opposed to Tremblay’s overcooked version done according to the Charlestown Citizens Alliance’s (CCA’s) recipe.

You can view or download the entire Housing Fact Book for free by clicking here.

On page 19, you’ll see a full page of data on affordable housing in Charlestown. There are also full pages on the other three towns – Richmond, Hopkinton and Exeter – covered in George Tremblay’s “study.”

Click to enlarge, or download the whole book here.
Just looking at Charlestown’s data, you’ll find some interesting facts that you won’t find in George Tremblay’s report.

For example, there are no affordable housing units for the elderly in Charlestown. In Tremblay’s apocalyptic report, George raises the specter of hordes of elderly millionaires who are poised to invade Charlestown to use the proceeds from their huge retirement savings accounts to buy elderly affordable housing as investments.

Sheer fantasy.

In fact, there are only 69 affordable housing units in Charlestown and, of those, 53 are listed as reserved for persons with special needs. They are referring to the two facilities located off South County Trail that provide assisted living and transitional housing for persons who have suffered traumatic brain injury, many of them veterans who were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan. This housing is not your typical affordable housing setting, but one that is unique and highly specialized.
Here comes George Tremblay's nightmare

Only 16 units of affordable housing for families exist in Charlestown. And, for the CCA, that’s 16 units too many. Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, who is running for another term on the Planning Commission – if she wins, she’ll be going for 22 years on the Planning Commission – breaks out in hives at the very thought of housing for families, since that term “family” usually implies “children” and children are, in the view of Platner and the CCA, parasites. 

Think I’m exaggerating? Click here.

Other facts you’ll find in the actual Fact Book (as opposed to Tremblay’s fictional account): The average private sector wage in Charlestown is $39,572 per year.

Here's Ruth Platner's nightmare
The average home price is Charlestown is $308,750, a number that lines up very closely with the data on To be able to afford to buy that average-priced Charlestown house, you would need an annual income of $87,038, which is not even within reach of two people, both earning the average private sector wage in Charlestown.

According to the Fact Book, Charlestown needs to add 280 units (rental or owned) of affordable housing to meet the state mandate. 

This does not mean – as the CCA would have you believe – that Charlestown has to build 280 new units, since the law allows this goal to be achieved by reusing or rehabilitating existing housing. 

Download this Fact Book for free. Click here.
Charlestown also created the option of adding accessory dwelling units to existing housing, though none have been built, largely because Planning Commissar Ruth Platner presented the Town Council with an ordinance that even she admitted would probably never result in a new unit of housing.  

Under the CCA’s control of Charlestown government, we’ve made almost no progress toward complying with the law.

But according to George Tremblay, this is not a problem. Why? Because he, and the CCA, says so.

The CCA is banking on getting the Rhode Island General Assembly to either repeal the state’s affordable housing law or allow Charlestown to count homes whose values have fallen below $225,000 as “affordable” even though there are people living in them who are not too happy about how much home equity they have lost. They're hoping, like every other homeowner, that the slow rebound in the housing market will give them back some of their lost equity when their home values go back up.

The CCA “solution” to affordable housing has several key elements, including defying or ignoring state law, expecting that the state will declare Charlestown to be “special” and thus exempt from the law, or getting the state to repeal the law because Charlestown doesn’t like it. 

Not only that, the CCA has been trying to get other rural towns to join in its revolt against the state law, but without success. That could be due to other towns doing so much better at complying with the law than Charlestown.

None of the CCA’s approaches are responsible – indeed, I’d call them radical and reckless. None of these approaches address the real needs of Charlestown citizens.