Woonsocket and Newport to get affordable housing projects

PROVIDENCE – Buildings and homes in need of repairs in Woonsocket and Newport have access to funds for rehabilitation under an affordable housing initiative announced Monday.

The two Rhode Island projects are expected to create 68 units of affordable housing, using nearly $1.4 million in grants, loans and interest-rate subsidies provided through the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

The funds for the Newport project are being awarded through BankNewport. The funds for the Woonsocket project are being awarded through Citizens Bank. Both banks are members of the Federal Home Loan Bank, a cooperatively owned wholesale bank for housing finance in New England.

The Rhode Island projects are part of a wider initiative announced Monday, providing $46.6 million for 47 housing projects in all six New England states and beyond.

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“In partnership with our member financial institutions, we are proud to provide this funding which greatly benefits individuals and families struggling to afford housing and supports economic development throughout New England,” said Federal Home Loan Bank President and CEO Edward A. Hjerpe III.

The grants and loans will be used to help pay for construction, acquisition or rehabilitation costs. Member financial institutions will work with local developers to apply for funding, which is awarded through a competitive scoring process.

The project in Woonsocket, called the Millrace District Initiative, calls for rehabbing three abandoned, blighted mill buildings in the city’s historic district. An Environmental Protection Agency clean up grant has been secured for the project, as the site has been dubbed an environmental remediation site.

The project involves a $649,746 grant and subsidy, plus a $650,000 loan.

The proposed 58 energy-efficient apartments will consist of 43 one-bedroom units and 15 studio units. They will be available to tenants with income at or below 50 percent or 60 percent of the area’s median income, with 13 of the units reserved for the homeless.

Citizens Bank will provide a construction loan and a subsidized advance. NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley has been named the project’s sponsor.

The project in Newport, handled through the Newport County Revolving Loan Fund, involves a $100,000 grant to correct code violations and make upgrades to 10 owner-occupied single-family and multi-family houses.

The typical borrowers will be elderly, low-income residents who will use the revolving fund to make repairs – including exterior carpentry, plumbing, electrical improvements, roof and window replacement, painting, landscaping, and installation of energy-efficient heating systems.

The fund will serve those earning up to 80 percent of the area’s median income. The funding will be combined with long-term debt from BankNewport to make 15-year rehab loans.

The sponsor, Church Community Housing Corp., has successfully operated revolving loan programs for six municipalities in Newport County since 1975, the Federal Home Loan Bank said.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com