Providence Journal got the definition of affordable housing only partially correct

The following letter was  published in the Providence Journal (Dec 5) by George Tremblay in response to their news article on affordable housing (Dec 1)
“Your otherwise informative article on the charge to the recently formed (and long overdue) Affordable Housing Oversight Commission (“Panel will assess R.I.’s housing stock”:12/01/13, pg A-2) neglected to include in its definition of affordable housing that, by law, such housing must be built with government subsidies (taxpayer dollars), and locked in as such by deed restriction for a minimum of 30 years.  An assessment of performance of the law cannot ignore these costs and constraints.” 

Mr. Tremblay adds that, by the definition provided in the Journal article, most homes in Charlestown would be classified as affordable.  Data reported by the U.S.Census Bureau show that 85% of Charlestown’s year-round residents live in owner-occupied homes, and ¾ of these households meet the affordability requirement that no more than 30% of  income be dedicated to mortgage, taxes, and insurance.  But these homes don’t count toward Charlestown’s inventory of affordable housing because they are not built with government subsidies, and they are not deed restricted so they can only be sold to buyers approved by the RI Housing Authority.  Accordingly, instead of classifying roughly 75% of Charlestown’s housing as affordable per the U.S. Census Bureau, the RI Housing Authority has determined that Charlestown’s inventory of affordable housing amounts to only about 3%.  By this sleight of hand with definitions, RI Housing keeps the true amount of affordable housing in Charlestown one of the best kept secrets in RI.

George Tremblay

Mr. Tremblay is a member of the Charlestown Town Council, and author of a report on the performance of the Affordable Housing Act in four rural communities.  The report can be retrieved from this link: