Hailed by both institutions as a way to better serve the community, Roger Williams University is finalizing its takeover of HousingWorks RI, the housing policy research group.
Guided by a year-old memorandum of understanding, the developing affiliation, which was announced publicly last week, will allow HousingWorks to continue its research and policy work on affordable housing, while helping RWU to better integrate that work in support of the school’s mission.
“This partnership is an important relationship for the university,” said Pete Wilbur, associate vice president of university relations at RWU. “HousingWorks is a resource in terms of fulfilling our affordable excellence initiative, in which experiential learning is a major lynchpin in preparing our students for the job market.”
In the spring of 2012, HousingWorks moved into RWU offices in Providence at 150 Washington St. This past spring, HousingWorks now-former Executive Director Nellie Gorbea announced her intention to run for Rhode Island secretary of state. Her last day was July 31. Nicole Lagace is now interim executive director. Two RWU faculty members and Wilbur also sit on the nonprofit’s board, Wilbur said.
On July 1, the university awarded HousingWorks a $50,000 grant. With a $280,000 budget for the new fiscal year, the nonprofit is also funded by the United Way of Rhode Island, The Rhode Island Foundation and Rhode Island Housing, said Noreen Shawcross, HousingWorks board treasurer.
“Like any small organization, we need to think about sustainability,” Shawcross said. “It just seems like it would be a really good idea to have a permanent home at a university, and we haven’t regretted it since we started the process.”
Some of the ways the university and the nonprofit will continue to collaborate include establishing and sustaining student internships and fulfilling criteria for the university’s collegiate partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Wilbur said. HUD student internships are already under way and more are being planned, he said.
HousingWorks will continue to produce its biggest project, the “Housing Fact Book,” Shawcross said. Published every September, the book pulls together in one place the housing costs to live in Rhode Island by city and town, she said. The next book comes out Sept. 27.