Officials cut the ribbon at the Delaine Street Apartments on Monday, March 28. From left, Representative Anastasia P. Williams; Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing; U.S. Senator Jack Reed; Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders; Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza; Representative John Lombardi; Ward 15 Councilman Oscar O. Vargas; and Josh Saal, the State’s Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Housing.
PROVIDENCE—ONE Neighborhood Builders (ONE|NB) celebrated two new affordable housing developments — the rehabilitation of formerly dilapidated dwellings on Delaine Street and its first modular development, on Bowdoin Street, with a ribbon-cutting on Monday, March 28.
The Delaine Street Apartments and the Bowdoin Street Rowhouse are part of ONE Neighborhood Builders’ expansive effort to build new affordable housing, rehabilitate blighted properties, and create healthy, vibrant communities. They will bring a total of 17 affordable apartments for low-income families to the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence.
“ONE Neighborhood Builders has done it again,” said said U.S. Senator Jack Reed. “They have brought us an opportunity to showcase where Rhode Island’s cutting-edge approach to affordable housing, the types of projects and the potential they’ve demonstrated, will enhance both the neighborhoods and the lives of those who live here.”
Lack of affordable housing is “a national problem of extraordinary importance,” Reed said. “One of the biggest factors in inflation, in terms of what families are paying, is increased rents. And we have to deal with that. And we have to deal with that with more houses.”
He noted how funding came from many sources and partnerships and that federal legislation he sponsored provided $3.8 million for the Bowdoin development and $2.1 million toward Delaine.
In addition to Reed, Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Rhode Island Representatives Anastasia Williams and John Lombardi, Rhode Island Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Housing Josh Saal, Providence Councilman Oscar Vargas, RIHousing Executive Director Carol Ventura, and others, joined ONE|NB’s Executive Director, Jennifer Hawkins, at Monday’s ribbon-cutting. Following the event at Delaine Street, more than a dozen people walked several blocks to tour the development on Bowdoin.
“ONE Neighborhood Builders firmly believes that ‘housing is health’— in other words, housing that is safe, healthy, and affordable is the most essential social determinant of health,” said Jennifer Hawkins, President and Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders. “Without safe, stable housing, individuals’ health suffers. These beautiful new apartments will not only bring stability to the residents, but they also enhance the overall neighborhood where they are located.”
She pointed out that the three-bedroom Delaine Street Apartment that hosted Monday’s event would rent for $1,215 a month. And she emphasized ONE|NB’s commitment to achieve “functional zero” when it comes to homelessness in the state. “We are really eager to do our part,” Hawkins said. “We set aside apartments in both of our developments for persons who experience homelessness. At both Delaine and Bowdoin, we will offer permanent supportive housing apartments.”
Bowdoin Street Rowhouse is a multi-family development that is transforming Bowdoin Street, where this once blighted piece of property sat vacant for years after a fatal fire in January of 2018 destroyed three homes and displaced about two dozen people. This development is ONE Neighborhood Builders’ first modular construction, a method the nonprofit has embarked upon to build affordable housing more quickly and at a reduced cost.
Delaine Street Apartments is ONE Neighborhood Builders’ rehabilitation of three formerly vacant and blighted buildings on a single lot in Providence, where the homes were boarded up and at least one of the homes was covered by a spidery web of vines that enshrouded the building. The development now features three 1-bedroom apartments, two 2-bedrooms apartments, three 3-bedroom apartments, and one 4-bedroom apartment. Six of the apartments are reserved for households earning up to 60% of area median income and three of the apartments are for households earning up to 30% of area median income.
ONE|NB Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins speaks to the morass of timelines needed to build affordable housing.
“Creating additional affordable housing in Providence is one of the most pressing needs facing our community,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “We’re proud to have partnered with ONE Neighborhood Builders on this important development, and I commend ONE Neighborhood Builders on their innovative approach to creating more affordable housing units.”
Elorza mentioned that his family were tenants on Cranston Street in Providence for 22 years, which gave his family stability. He said the Providence Planning Department is developing a 10-year comprehensive plan for housing in the city.
“If I can think of one thing that is about as sad as it gets,” he said, “is that all of the families that have invested here, have lived here, have raised their families here, now that Providence is on this upswing, they’re the first ones that are being displaced. That’s just wrong on so many different levels.”
He said that blight along Delaine Street has been a problem for decades. “But something about this project and what’s happening across the street has a level of permanence that Delaine Street hasn’t had in such a long time,” Elorza said. “It really starts block by block. And that expands out to communitywide change.”
Rhode Island Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Housing Josh Saal acknowledged the reality that too many Rhode Islanders are on the verge of homelessness due to the high cost of housing or housing instability.
He said developments like Delaine and Bowdoin “not only ensure that more families don’t end up homeless that don’t end up homeless, but they also ensure that people who are currently experiencing homelessness receive the services and the support that they need to lead a productive and fruitful life within our communities. Because the homeless are part of our communities and we cannot leave them behind,” he said.
RIHousing Executive Director Carol Ventura also applauded the changes happening in Olneyville and the more recent availability of funding from the state and federal governments.
“While we celebrate these new homes today, we know that there is a serious shortage of affordable housing and Rhode Island,” she said. “With rising home prices, rents and low supply low inventory across the board. People are simply priced out of our market.”
“Building, renovating, and otherwise introducing more affordable housing into urban areas near transportation centers are the kinds of meaningful and strategic investments we need,” RIHousing Executive Director Carol Ventura said. “RIHousing is proud to be a partner in the development of the beautiful homes we are celebrating today, and we look forward to cutting the ribbon on many more affordable homes in the years ahead.”
Rhode Island State Representative John Lombardi praised the efforts of Senator Reed and the work of agencies like ONE|NB.
“There’s two things I think we can eliminate,” he said. “One of them is hunger, and the other is homelessness. Let’s start today. Rhode Island knows how to do it, especially this agency here.”
For Bowdoin Street Rowhouse, ONE Neighborhood Builders raised over $2.2 million from the City of Providence and the State to complete construction. The nonprofit community development corporation bought the property on Bowdoin for $65,000 after the City of Providence acquired it through a tax sale foreclosure. The 6 two-bedroom apartments each have 950 square feet of living space, with rents starting at $975. The 2 one-bedroom apartments each have 550 square feet of living space, with rents starting at $800. Beginning in the spring of 2022, the apartments will be available to renters who earn between 50% and 80% of area median income.
Both developments are located near public transit and community, recreational, and educational opportunities—including the Olneyville Community Library, Joslin Park and Joslin Recreation Center, and the Nickerson Community Center, which offers child care and a charter school.