NORTH SMITHFIELD â€“ A coalition of non-profit and private developers broke ground Wednesday at Marshfield Commons, a 38-unit housing development that will enable the town to reach its state-mandated threshold for affordable housing.
Called â€śa model of rural smart growth,â€ť the tract of townhouse style two- and three-bed units preserves three-quarters of its 6.3-acre Mechanic Street construction site as open space.
The project is a joint venture of Woonsocket-based non-profit housing developer NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley and the town of North Smithfield. The private company New England Construction is also a contractor on the job, with funding provided by Bank of America.
â€śMany partners, including the town of North Smithfield, have joined together to ensure new, safe, healthy and affordable homes and preserve key green space,â€ť said Richard Godfrey, executive director of Rhode Island Housing. â€śAt a time when our state is facing an economic crisis, federal funds are being cut and unemployment remains high, the building of these new homes will provide immediate jobs, badly needed construction investment in our communities and good homes for Rhode Islanders.â€ť
Developers forecast the completion of the $11 million project by June 2013, creating 89 temporary construction jobs.
According to the most recent data collected by HousingWorks RI, the town needs only 25 more units of low- to moderate-income housing to comply with state law, which says that 10 percent of its housing stock must be affordable, as defined by the federal bureau of Housing and Urban Development.
Based on those figures, it would appear that Marshfield Commons will put the town over the top.
Nevertheless, housing advocates say the need for more affordable housing, even in North Smithfield, is still great. Using as a yardstick the average private sector wage in North Smithfield of $30,212 a year, the government defines an affordable rent as $755 a month, but the typical two-bedroom apartment was renting for over $1,200 a month in 2011, according to HousingWorks.
â€śWe value our partnership with the town of North Smithfield, as they truly understand the value affordable housing can bring to a community,â€ť said Joseph Garlick, director of NeighborWorks. â€śThey have been amazing and proactive partners in this effort and a model for every community to follow as they work to meet the needs of their residents, no matter what their income level.â€ť
Eligibility for tenancy in Marshfield Commons is based on income and family size. Applications are not being accepted yet, but anyone interested may contact Irene Davis at NeighborWorks, 401-762-0993, ext. 201, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.