Agency Wins Awards for Special Needs Housing, Home Improvement and Rehabilitation Programs

Providence, RI (October 8, 2010) – Two innovative Rhode Island Housing programs, Opening Doors: Re-entry Housing and FirstHomes100+, have been awarded Program Excellence Awards from the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA). NCSHA’s Annual Awards for Program Excellence honor state Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs) for their outstanding public purpose programs, projects and practices and were presented at the organization’s annual conference earlier this week.

“As we design and implement our financing programs, our greatest reward is to help Rhode Island families find and keep safe, healthy homes they can afford and, in doing so, build strong vibrant communities,” said Richard Godfrey, Executive Director of Rhode Island Housing. “It is an incredible honor to be recognized by our fellow HFAs for creating some of the best programs in the country, all while working to help Rhode Islanders.”

“Opening Doors: Re-entry Housing” was selected as a winner in the Housing for Persons with Special Needs subcategory. This program, a first-of-its-kind development on Plainfield Street in Providence, will provide 19 homes and support services to Rhode Islanders who are returning to the community after incarceration. OpenDoors is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission to strengthen communities by supporting the formerly incarcerated.

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Studies have shown that providing permanent, service-enriched homes for those returning to the community plays a critical role in helping them successfully integrate back into society and dramatically reduces recidivism. For that reason, this development will focus not only on providing residents with a safe place to call home, but also offers access to a wide array of support services, including discharge planning for existing inmates at minimum security prisons, one-on-one or group counseling for those already released from prison, employment workshops and training, and tax-preparation assistance.

“Our agency is grateful to Rhode Island Housing and for recognizing and investing in important developments such as this one,” said Solangel Rodriguez, Executive Director of OpenDoors. “These new homes will help formerly incarcerated individuals get back on their feet and improve public safety in the neighborhood.”

The homes and services that will be offered at OpenDoors were made possible thanks to a number of funding partners, including Rhode Island Housing, the state’s Housing Resources Commission, RI LISC, Corporation for Supportive Housing, RI Department of Environmental Management, and the City of Providence. Federal programs and funding, such as the Tax Credit Exchange Program (TCEP) and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), were also utilized for this development.

The other award winner, Rhode Island Housing’s FirstHomes100+ program took the top honor in the Home Improvement and Rehabilitation subcategory. “FirstHomes100+” is a loan package that incorporates the funds to purchase and rehabilitate a home, in one low, fixed-rate mortgage. The new product provides all the benefits of Rhode Island Housing’s FirstHomes100 mortgage – including 100 percent financing – plus the money needed to complete essential repairs and upgrades, all together in one fixed, 30-year loan. Rhode Island Housing services the loan, and provides free counseling, education and support for the life of the loan.

With the sale of distressed homes now making up more than half of all reported home sales in Rhode Island, this program, coupled with Rhode Island Housing’s 100 Things to Know Before You Buy a Home educational campaign, aims to ensure that homebuyers make safe, informed decisions about purchasing a home, and avoid unpleasant and costly surprises.

“FirstHomes100+ allowed me to make my dream of owning a home a reality,” said Laura Marlane, a Rhode Island Housing customer. “My sons and I found a home we loved, but it needed a lot of work. With the FirstHomes100+ mortgage, I was able to wrap the cost of those repairs into my mortgage payment, allowing me to avoid unexpected expenses down the road.”

Rhode Island Housing is a self-sustaining public agency, which generates its own operating income, without state funding. Everything the agency earns is reinvested to meet the needs of the state. Together with its partners, the agency works to ensure that all people who live and work in Rhode Island can afford a safe, healthy home that meets their needs. Rhode Island Housing provides low-interest loans, grants, education, advocacy and consumer counseling to help its customers rent, buy and retain their homes. It also offers special programs to ensure that these homes are safe and healthy.