Recent letter to the editor from George Tremblay

The following letter was printed in the Westerly Sun and is reprinted here with permission of the author, George Tremblay
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There is a bit of ambiguity in the article on affordable housing, posted Friday 24 Aug, that needs correcting.  Mr. Pepin states that: “Affordable housing is defined by the state as residential housing with a sales price or rental amount that is within the means of a household of moderate income”.  Many of us in town government wish that were true.

First, the public might be surprised to learn that by “moderate income” the law means that a family of 4 with an annual income of $89,400 would qualify for government-subsidized housing valued at around $360,000.  But more importantly, if affordable housing were defined as your reporter stated, Charlestown would far surpass the goal of achieving affordability for 10% of its housing inventory.  In fact, about 60% of Charlestown’s housing falls within the price range available to applicants qualifying for affordable housing under RI law.   But the law does not allow towns to count all housing “within the means of a household of moderate income”.  To be counted, the housing must be built with a government subsidy, and be deed restricted so that it can only be sold to another applicant approved by the government housing bureaucracy.

A bank may qualify a prospective buyer for a mortgage, because it has determined that the buyer can afford the proposed purchase, but the RI Affordable Housing agency will not tally that house as “affordable”.  Your reporter may have unwittingly exposed the fundamental flaw in the Affordable Housing Law, namely, that it is deceptive, misleading, and so poorly understood that I expect it would be rejected in a heartbeat by a better informed public.

George Tremblay

The author is a member of the Charlestown Planning Commission

A companion editorial in agreement with these sentiments was written by the Westerly Sun Editor and published on the same day