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Westerly, R.I., to Receive State Funds to Address Lack of Affordable Housing

Thu May 25, 2023 - Northeast Edition
Westerly Sun

Southpoint Commons will feature 72 mixed-income rental units in two three-story apartment buildings with a community building. (Dakota rendering)
Southpoint Commons will feature 72 mixed-income rental units in two three-story apartment buildings with a community building. (Dakota rendering)

Rhode Island's recent push to inject millions of dollars into 23 projects that create affordable housing statewide will benefit a Westerly developer with plans to build off Wells Street in the community, the Westerly Sun reported May 20.

The Southpoint Commons project in the far southwest Rhode Island town would create 72 housing units and is only one of two developments in Washington County to receive such funding; Reynolds Farm II, a 40-unit senior housing development in North Kingstown is the other.

Gov. Dan McKee and Rhode Island Housing (RIH) announced May 18 that more than $101 million is available to support the construction, preservation and operating costs of 1,481 units of housing — more than 1,200 of which are to be affordable homes — across the state.

"For Rhode Island to be an attractive place to live, work, and raise a family, we must address the availability and quality of housing," McKee said in a news release. "That means everything from providing supports to those experiencing homelessness, to increasing affordable housing, to ensuring we build more workforce housing for our middle-class families."

The funding comes from various federal and state resources, including $82.9 million from McKee's $250 million budget investment in affordable housing and homelessness support programs.

Southpoint Commons to Be Three-Story Development

In January, the Westerly Planning Board reviewed the Southpoint Commons proposal and approved a comprehensive permit application from Fifty-One Franklin LLC in Westerly and Waltham, Mass.-based Dakota Partners, which will develop the $23.9 million housing project. They will contract with a builder to erect a pair of three-story residential buildings targeted for a 7.5-acre parcel at 111 Wells St.

Construction is slated to be complete in 2025.

As part of the project, 57 of the 72 units would be low- and moderate-income affordable units, with 15 market-rate units. They will include 36 one-bedroom, 28 two-bedroom, and eight three-bedroom homes.

Plans also call for a 2,800-sq.-ft. clubhouse with a fitness room, offices, kitchen, community space, an adjacent outdoor playground and a total of 147 surface parking spaces. Residents of Southpoint Commons also will have access to common washers and dryers and receive a local YMCA membership and supportive services.

Westerly Taking Steps to Solve Housing Issues

Since the Westerly project came on the radar last fall, neighbors have expressed concerns about traffic on Wells and Franklin streets, as well as concerns over the size of a surrounding buffer area, according to the Sun.

But the Southpoint proposal also would chip away at what local leaders and social service agencies point out is a dearth of affordable housing in the region.

The town is taking steps of its own to address its lack of affordable homes.

In late March, Rhode Island State Sen. Victoria Gu (D-District 38) held a community forum on affordable housing, with Westerly town councilors, including President Edward Morrone and Vice President Kevin Lowther II, in attendance.

At the public meeting, Lowther said Westerly has about 11,000 households and has met only about 5.1 percent of its state-mandated goal of 10 percent home affordability.

"We're short about 550 [units] right now," he said at the time. "[Therefore], we need to make a plan for 550 additional low- and moderate-income [homes]."

The Westerly news source noted that the town council recently formed an ad-hoc study committee on the problem and is appointing members to it.

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