ChurchWoods Senior Housing Will Be Ready for Occupancy Summer, 2017

The last piece of funding for ChurchWoods, an affordable housing project for senior citizens, has been acquired. ChurchWoods will provide 24 1 bedroom rental units for seniors next to the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit on Rt. 1A.

The Town initiated the project with the $1 Million Affordable Housing Bond that was passed by voters in 2004. The Town invested $50,000 in Initiative funding and at closing will invest $325,000 in the acquisition of the site from the Rhode Island Episcopal Diocese.

ChurchWoods is the first affordable housing project in Charlestown to address local needs for its senior citizens.

ChurchWoods was conceived in 2011, when Town Council President, Tom Gentz, saw the opportunity and introduced Geoff Marchant of the Washington County Community Development Corporation (WCCDC) to the minister of the Church of the Holy Spirit to pursue the idea.

Funding of ChurchWoods had been an unresolved issue when Superstorm Sandy Disaster Relief (DR) funds became available from the Federal Government. The Sandy DR funding covered $3.4 M of the project costs, and on Friday, June 12, 2015, the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission approved the final gap funding of $1.9 M.

ChurchWoods competed for and won its needed gap funding in a competition that awarded a total of $6.9 M in grants out of $27 M in applications.

Sandy DR money for ChurchWoods will be matched dollar for dollar with additional Sandy DR money to fund projects in Narragansett and Block Island. The ChurchWoods project assures an additional $3.4 M of Sandy DR money for other projects in Rhode Island.

Tom Gentz, Charlestown Town Council President stated, “We have waited years for ChurchWoods to be funded and I am thrilled to announce the project can finally move forward to serve the needs of our residents.”

Geoff Marchant, President, WCCDC said, “We are very grateful to the Housing Resource Commission for providing the gap funding to allow ChurchWoods to go forward and thank the Diocese of Rhode Island for its patience over the past several years. The Town of Charlestown was unwavering in its advocacy for this project and the CDC is grateful to Tom Gentz and the Council, the Town Administrator, the Planning Commission and the Affordable Housing Commission for all their help in getting us to where we are.”

State law requires communities to work towards having 10% of their housing affordable and covered by some form of government subsidy. Some developers have used this law to circumvent zoning and greatly increase the number of units allowed, but build mostly market rate houses. Few affordable units would be proposed, but the potential environmental and fiscal impacts on the town could be very negative.

ChurchWoods on the other hand is a low impact development, 100% of the units are affordable, and with a very small fiscal and environmental footprint. The one bedroom apartments are targeted at senior citizens already living in Charlestown, but currently stressed by insurance or other housing costs, and the burden of house upkeep with advancing age. The current zoning allows both commercial and residential use on this property, but ChurchWoods will be limited to just residential for senior citizens.