Press & Events

Small homes, big ambitions: Work starts on RISD-designed affordable housing project

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Published in The Providence Journal  – October 28, 2019

PROVIDENCE — A new housing development in Providence will simultaneously address three key issues — affordability, climate change and workforce development — officials say, while also providing housing for five families.

On Monday, officials broke ground on the Sheridan Small Homes project, a community of five compact, affordable, zero-emissions homes being developed by One Neighborhood Builders, a community development nonprofit based in Olneyville.

“While modest in scale … this project is large in innovation,” said One Neighborhood Builders Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins, as she stood at the project site — a three-quarters-of-an-acre tract of land off Sheridan Street, adjacent to the affordable apartment complex Sixty King.

The homes, which will cost $289,200 each to develop, will be sold to income-qualified buyers for about $150,000 each, Hawkins said. Two of the homes will be reserved for families earning no more than 80% of the area median income, or $52,400 for a couple and $65,500 for a family of four. The other three homes are for families earning less than 120% of the annual median income, or $78,650 for a couple and $98,300 for a family of four.

The development, which will cost a total of about $1.4 million, is being funded through a variety of sources, including grants from the Rhode Island Housing Homeownership Investment Fund; Zero Energy for the Ocean State, a program in partnership with Rhode Island Housing; the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources and National Grid; Providence HOME, a federal program funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development and distributed by the city; NeighborWorks America, a national organization supporting affordable housing efforts; and a $125,000 anonymous donation.

The 750-square-foot homes, designed by Rhode Island School of Design students, will be equipped with photovoltaic solar panels that will produce slightly more electricity than the homes use, meaning residents will have no electric bills and will likely be able to sell some electricity back to the grid, Hawkins said.

Triple-pane windows and 11-inch thick walls will make the homes super insulated while their placement in a semicircle is designed to maximize solar gain, Hawkins said.

The homes will each have two bedrooms and one-and-a-half bathrooms and will be able to accommodate a maximum of four people, she said.

For construction, One Neighborhood Builders is using 40 trainees with Building Futures Rhode Island, an organization that trains low-income people for skilled careers. The homes are expected to be ready by around December 2020.

Hawkins said 12 people have already inquired about reserving a home. Income-qualified homebuyers will likely be selected through a lottery system, but One Neighborhood Builders is still determining the process.

The project encapsulates solutions for three of the city’s most pressing issues and can hopefully be a model that can be replicated around the state, officials said Monday.

“The main point here is that we’re making a real impact in more than one arena, and that’s what counts,” said Andrew Cortes, director of Building Futures. “These are powerful goals and an incredible reason to celebrate.”

— Story by Madeleine List

Five small homes poised to become a giant step for RI

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Published in ConvergenceRI – October 28, 2019  

Full Article Here

PROVIDENCE – On Monday morning, Oct. 28, a ceremonial groundbreaking will take place in Olneyville for the innovative Sheridan Small Homes project, a community of five, very affordable compact small homes to be built along Riverside Park in Olneyville, in a new development being led by ONE Neighborhood Builders, a community development corporation. [Some of the work has already begun on site preparation.]

Among the dignitaries scheduled to attend and to speak are: Sen. Jack Reed; R.I Treasurer Seth Magaziner; Providence City Council President Sabina Matos; Bonnie Nickerson, director of Providence’s Planning and Development Department; and Carol Ventura, executive director of Rhode Island Housing.

Funding support for the Sheridan Small Homes project came from: Rhode Island Housing, NeighborWorks America, TD Charitable Foundation, HarborOne Bank, and the city of Providence.

At a time when two different reports published last week – the Rhode Island Life Index, a survey conducted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island and the School of Public Health at Brown University, and the 2019 Housing Fact Book produced by HousingWorks RI – put the spotlight on the dire need for safe, healthy, affordable housing in Rhode Island, ONE Neighborhood Builders is taking action in creating an innovation solution, building a new development of five small homes, in an initiative that has the capability to be replicated and scaled up.

Translated, as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island moves forward with its plan to focus its Blue Angel philanthropy program next year on the development of more affordable housing in Rhode Island, perhaps it should consider how to invest in similar “small home” projects to replicate the development in other neighborhoods and communities across the state.

Quick turnaround
The ideas for a small home development were first discussed as part of a presentation at the Grow Smart RI conference in April of 2018. The gestation period from idea to design to securing financing to groundbreaking took about 18 months. And, if all goes according to plan, construction of the five small homes will be completed in 56 weeks, with new owners moving in sometime next fall, according to Jennifer Hawkins, executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders.

“There will be five, single-family homes, part of a condominium community,” Hawkins told ConvergenceRI in a recent interview. One of the biggest benefits of being part of the condominium community, she continued, is that there will be an array of photovoltaic panels owned by the condo association. “The energy that they generate will cover the costs of the utilities for the five homes.”

Each of the new small homes will have two bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms, with a footprint of about 825 square feet.

Because of the PV panels, Hawkins explained, there will be effectively no utility costs. “It will be an all-electric home; heat and electricity are provided, with the PV panels covering that,” she said.

The range of the sales price for the five homes will range from $140,000 to $165,000, according to Hawkins. “It may go a little lower, it may go a little higher, depending on where the market is in a year,” she said. Many of the buyers, Hawkins said, will only need to put down 5 percent, sometimes less, depending on what mortgage products are available.

“If you are renting right now, you very likely will pay less for you monthly mortgage, for a much higher quality home,” she said.

Inundated with interest
The potential high demand generated by folks who want to purchase one of the five homes, which come with income restrictions, has put ONE Neighborhood Builders in what Hawkins described as an interesting position.

“I believe that there will be a huge amount of demand and desire to buy these homes,” she said. “We’ve never had to do a lottery or a reservation system before [for are other developments], so we are researching some fair and equitable practices about how to do that. We are, frankly, inundated with interest, which is excellent. We’re trying to figure out how best to manage that fairly.”

Here is the ConvergenceRI interview with Jennifer Hawkins, executive director of ONE Neighborhood Builders, which serves as the backbone agency for an expanded Health Equity Zone in Central Providence and continues to break new ground on projects in Olneyville to improve the built environment.

ConvergenceRI: I continue to be impressed by all the projects that you are involved with in Olneyville.
Thank you.

ConvergenceRI: It is remarkable that such a small group has developed such a large footprint in serving the Olneyville neighborhood.
We are getting larger, from a staff capacity standpoint. I was writing a grant report the other day and, in answer to the question: how many employees do we have, I calculated we now have 16 full-time-equivalent staff members, in a combination of full-time, part-time workers and consultants. It is pretty impressive.

ConvergenceRI: It seems that ONE Neighborhood Builders has positioned itself at the cutting edge of many initiatives, including the expansion of Health Equity Zones. It seems to me, for the first time, after five or six years of work, health equity and Health Equity Zones are becoming part of what I would call the vernacular of health policy.
That is true.

ConvergenceRI: In your opinion, how has health equity become more than just a phrase and been recognized as an underlying principle of development work?
 As the term, social determinants of health, has entered the lexicon of everyone who is doing this work. The R.I. Department of Health has done a very good job of promoting the brand of HEZ and health equity zones, which is a good thing; it benefits all the work we are doing.

But, I think you are right. It is more than just the terminology. There is an ethos of understanding that, it has almost become hackneyed at this point to say: what determines your health is your zip code.

Yes, it is more important than you cholesterol numbers…

ConvergenceRI: This morning, at the release of the Rhode Island Life Index, Kim Keck, the president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island, said that “your zip code is more important than your genetic code.”
 There you go. It may be questionable; it might be true. I think the idea that there are these health disparities, where the life expectancy gap is 83 years on the East Side and 74 years in Olneyville is unconscionable.

When we think about those social determinants, we just keep coming back to the work that we’ve been doing since our founding, which is, comprehensive community development, working on the built environment, and then knitting together all of the social fabric to support residents and stakeholders to make a neighborhood thrive.

We can use the lens of social determinants when we speak about it, but I feel the work we have been doing has been pretty consistent.

And, fortunately, there is now a whole sector of systems that are paying attention, which is the health care ecosystem. But I wouldn’t say that we’ve changed our mission or changed our strategy.

ConvergenceRI: How do people in the neighborhood see it?
 I don’t think the person on the street would say, “I live in a community [that has] a health equity zone.” That doesn’t mean anything to anyone.

ConvergenceRI: How do they see the changes? Are they cognizant of the changes?
 Every two years, beginning in 2014, we have done a community needs assessment in Olneyville [as part of our HEZ work].

Now we’re branching out, and for the first time, we’re conducting a community needs assessment in the expansion neighborhoods of the central Providence HEZ, in Hartford Valley and Federal Hill.

What we’ve seen in Olneyville is that there has been a shift in perception around safety and community health.

When we ask: Do you see less abandoned blight? the residents say yes. Do you use the parks more often? Yes. Are you more likely, if you see a crime, to seek help form law enforcement? Yes.

So, these are proxies for measuring social efficacy, the idea that when you live in neighborhoods that are free of blight and crime and generalized disorder, you are a healthier person.

We think that this assessment that we’ve done can point to these perceptions. It really is a self-reported survey; it is by no means scientific. It is about [capturing] people’s perceptions.

ConvergenceRI: There are now a number of datasets, the Rhode Island Life Index being the latest one, to focus in on housing. The big announcement that accompanied the release of the Life Index today by Blue Cross was that the insurer’s Blue Angel Philanthropy grants program was going to be focused on affordable housing needs in Rhode Island.
 I applaud that decision.

ConvergenceRI: There were also the community needs assessments that were done by the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, which pointed to similar types of findings. The community needs assessments conducted by the HEZs were incorporated into the findings.
How important is it for the community to be at the table when policy decisions are being made?
 I think if there is a way to infuse the tri-annual needs assessment that the hospitals are required to do, to have that informed by the HEZs, that would be great. I think there are ways in which our information could be formalized in their tri-annual evaluation.

Not to understate the importance of hyper-localized data, and the uniqueness of communities, but I also think that there is a multitude of national data that shows that when someone has safe, affordable, healthy, secure housing, that their utilization of emergency services and, in general, their medical expenses, decrease as a consequence.

You don’t necessarily need to always show, well, that might be true in XYZ state, but isn’t true in Providence, in Rhode Island, or in Olneyville.

I do think you can extrapolate that, and I would encourage us to think about the fact this known and widely accepted. We don’t necessarily have to keep proving it locally.

ConvergencRI: In last week’s issue, I did a deep dive into what I saw was the lack of metrics as the state is taking over the Providence schools, about how they will measure success.
People are beginning to realize that investments in clinical approaches to health care are not going to change the health outcomes of what is happening in the neighborhoods, yet there is still a sense that we can solve all the education problems by focusing on the schools.
It strikes me that the same transformation that happened in health care around health equity also needs to happen with education: the realization that you can’t achieve your educational goals without addressing access to safe, affordable healthy housing.
 Yes. When I think about neighborhood revitalization, if you don’t address the built environment, you’re not going to be very successful. I am very sympathetic to the idea that we can’t say: Schools, fix everything. That’s unfair. And, you can’t say: Hospitals, fix everything; that’s really unfair.

But, there is a mutual benefit to all of these systems, when someone is able to have safe, affordable housing. It’s a shared responsibility. And, I don’t think that any one disagrees with that notion. Who would disagree with that?

ConvergenceRI: In terms of the small homes project, what are the opportunities to scale up the initiative in Rhode Island?
 Let me share some ideas that I would love to see replicated here in Rhode Island.

There is this project in Hartford, Conn., called the “Teachers’ Village,” it’s a full-circle development where there was an acknowledgement that you needed to build the homes where the teachers are in order to encourage people to live in the city in which they are working.

We’re developing four HeadStart classrooms for Children’s Friend, that is going to be co-located within an affordable housing development, called King Street Commons. There may be some employees of Chidlren’s Friend who would qualify for affordable housing.

It is not just thinking about affordable housing and then a community facility, but rather how does the community facility and affordable housing really knit together the community in a very intentional way.

I think as the small homes go, I think there is a huge potential for replication. The challenge that I see in scaling it up is the cost of building this net-zero energy, passive home. There is definitely a marginal increase in building not just to code, and not just to being green, but to building homes that are passive and net-zero.

We had to have in excess of 12-inch thick walls with superior insulation [for the Sheridan Small Homes] project.

We have triple pane windows. We needed to have this ERV [energy recovery ventilation] system, which cycles the air, because of the really tight envelope of the house. All of these additions cost a lot of money. And it raises the construction costs.

I feel a responsibility to try to build in the most ecologically sound way as possible. But it is difficult to marry that with affordable housing.

I would love to be able to do more of this, but I think that is the challenging piece. If we think about scaling this project up, we may have to scale it back to scale it up, if you will – making a very efficient home but necessarily making it passive and zero-energy.

ConvergenceRI: Could the possibility of replication of the small home project be with companies, as worker residences? As a way for companies to invest in their employees’ health and well being? As a way to reduce their administrative costs for health insurance?
: I like it.

How Healthy is Rhode Island?

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Kudos to the ProJo for this reporting.  ONE|NB is grateful to be the backbone of the Central Providence Health Equity Zone. We’re working with a dozen community organizations to address disparate health outcomes.  Shockingly, Olneyville’s life expectancy rate is only 73.  Affordable housing, family wage jobs, high-quality education – these are the social determinants to health we’re working on.

Read the article here.

Five Questions with Jennifer Hawkins

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Interview by Mary MacDonald, Providence Business News – October 2, 2019

PBN: Is this the first net-zero home in Providence, and what does that mean?

HAWKINS: I think it’s the first affordable [one], targeted to low- and moderate-income households. A deed-restricted property. It’s a passive home. That means the systems and the siting and the materials of the home are done in such a way as to use the natural environment. We have triple-pane windows. We have an all-electric system. All of these things make the home extremely efficient.

PBN: Tell me what the Sheridan Small Homes are, and how small are they?

HAWKINS: We decided to call them Sheridan Small Homes because they really are small. They’re 825 square feet. That is smaller than a traditional, single-family home. … Historically, we’ve built small starter homes. In recent times, anything less than 1,000 square feet wasn’t really built, and I think that we should go back in that direction.

PBN: What is the advantage of a smaller house and footprint?

HAWKINS: The land upon which we are constructing these condominiums is three-quarters of an acre. But yet we are still able to do five single homes. So, we are more densely using land. And because they’re smaller homes, there [are] less materials that you’re using to construct the home. And for this property, because of the passive and net-zero standards, we’re able to keep the construction costs at a nice level … [and] increase the efficiency of the project.

PBN: How are they going to be occupied when completed?

HAWKINS: It’s a condominium development, so there will be five units within the condominium. They will have shared amenities. Within the condominium fees will be costs for snow removal and landscaping. The condominium agent will own the solar panels. The panels will produce electricity to benefit the five properties. There will be a range of [sale] prices. There are slight differences in the homes and the styles of the homes. Two will be sold for families not exceeding 80% of [area median income]. Three will be sold to households not exceeding 120% of AMI. Right now, we’re saying between $135,000 and $165,000. A year from now, when we put them on the market, we’ll figure that out.

PBN: Do you already have people inquiring about them?

HAWKINS: Yes, we do. After we break ground, we will allow people to make a reservation. We are talking with our attorneys about a document that would allow people to put $100 [down] for a reservation of a home. We can’t do a purchase and sale agreement until the homes are built. … We’ve never done a lottery before. … We may end up having to do a lottery.

ONE Neighborhood Builders, Building Futures and RISD Team Up to Create Eco-Conscious Small Home Community

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PROVIDENCE, RI – Community-based developer, ONE Neighborhood Builders, is beginning construction on a zero-energy, small home community this fall. The Sheridan Small Homes project will bring five new, very affordable, “passive”, compact homes to the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. The project was originally posed as a challenge by ONE Neighborhood Builders to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) students in professor and architect Jonathan Knowles’ studio to address issues of increased housing unaffordability and climate change. The selected designs are now ready for construction.

“By building smaller we are consuming less resources: land, materials, energy and financial support,” said Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders. “At 825sf, these two-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom homes, adjacent to the park and bike path, will be striking additions to the urban landscape, while remaining very affordable for prospective buyers.”

“The Sheridan Small Homes project strengthens our Olneyville neighborhood and surrounding communities by creating greater affordable housing options at a reduced impact to our environment,” said Mayor Elorza. “This project is part of our RePowerPVD Race to Zero Challenge, where participants strive to develop the first energy-zero buildings in the City as a way to help Providence meet its ambitious climate goals and we look forward working with partners to create more sustainable, affordable housing opportunities for residents in the future.”

Innovative design elements and materials give the homes their passive qualities. Siting to maximize solar gain, triple glazed windows, advanced framing techniques, thick walls with layered mineral wool and blown-in fiberglass insulation, an advanced high efficiency energy recovery ventilation system, and high R-value building envelope with minimum air infiltrations all work to significantly reduce the home’s energy consumption. To provide that energy, homes will be equipped with photo-voltaic solar panels sized to produce slightly more energy than the homes consume.

The homes will be constructed as a training program of Providence-based not-for-profit Building Futures, an organization that meets industry need for skilled workers through the Registered Apprenticeship system while creating high-wage career opportunities for low income adults.

“Our partnership with ONE Neighborhood Builders on this project is a tremendous opportunity to extend the impact of each agency” said Andrew Cortes, Executive Director of Building Futures. “Sheridan Small Homes has a powerful multiplying effect in our neighborhoods: affordable homes with a lasting positive environmental impact, built by individuals that gain skills needed to launch their family-sustaining careers and change their lives.”

The groundbreaking event will be held on October 28th at 10:30am where U.S. Senator Jack Reed will share his words of support for the project. Senator Reed remarked, “Creating more affordable housing must be a priority, and ONE Neighborhood Builders is undertaking an innovative new project to do just that. Their Sheridan Small Homes project provides residents with high-quality, energy efficient homes. It also contributes to the revitalization of the neighborhood and gives our future builders the opportunity to develop new skills through the Building Futures apprenticeship system.”

Also in attendance will be General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, Providence City Council President Sabina Matos, Director of the City of Providence’s Planning and Development Department, Bonnie Nickerson, and the Executive Director of RIHousing, Carol Ventura. “RIHousing is proud to be supporting the development of these five homes,” said Ms. Ventura. “We launched the Homeownership Investment Fund last year to spur the construction of workforce housing; this is our first “HIF” project to break-ground and we look forward to supporting the expansion of this important model of housing.”

Building Community through Homes, Health and Opportunity. ONE Neighborhood Builders accomplishes its mission through strategic real estate development to expand affordable housing and spur economic development; engaging residents and community organizations to build trust and collectively problem-solve; and development of individuals’ personal financial capabilities so that they may realize their asset building goals.

TD Charitable Foundation Supports ONE|NB with Donation

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The TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, recently donated to ONE|NB  as part of the foundation’s commitment to giving back to the community.

The funds from the TD Charitable Foundation will support construction of the Sheridan Small Homes, a community of five compact, very affordable, net-zero homes to the Olneyville neighborhood.

A staunch commitment to active involvement in the local community is a vital element of the TD Bank philosophy. TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® and the TD Charitable Foundation provide support to affordable housing, financial literacy and education, and environmental initiatives, many of which focus on improving the welfare of children and families.

This contribution supports TD’s longstanding commitment to community enrichment through TD’s corporate citizenship platform, The Ready CommitmentThe Ready Commitment actively promotes inclusivity, economic vitality, environmental wellbeing and health, enabling people of all backgrounds to succeed in a rapidly changing world. As part of The Ready Commitment, TD targets US $775 million in total by 2030 towards community giving in four critical areas: Financial Security, a more Vibrant Planet, Connected Communities and Better Health. Through this platform, TD aspires to create a more inclusive tomorrow — helping people of all backgrounds feel more confident, not just about their finances, but about their ability to achieve their goals. Visit:

About the TD Charitable Foundation

The TD Charitable Foundation is the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, one of the 10 largest commercial banking organizations in the United States. Since its inception in 2002, the Foundation has distributed over $222 million through nearly 21,000 grants through donations to local nonprofits from Maine to Florida. More information on the TD Charitable Foundation, including the online grant application, is available at

About TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®

TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is one of the 10 largest banks in the U.S., providing more than 9 million customers with a full range of retail, small business and commercial banking products and services at more than 1,200 convenient locations throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Metro D.C., the Carolinas and Florida. In addition, TD Bank and its subsidiaries offer customized private banking and wealth management services through TD Wealth®, and vehicle financing and dealer commercial services through TD Auto Finance. TD Bank is headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J. To learn more, visit

TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank, is a member of TD Bank Group and a subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank of Toronto, Canada, a top 10 financial services company in North America. The Toronto-Dominion Bank trades on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges under the ticker symbol “TD”. To learn more, visit

Bank of America Generously Supports ONE|NB’s King Street Commons

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ONE Neighborhood Builders was awarded a generous grant by Bank of America to support the development King Street Commons (KSC). KSC combines the creation of 30 new, affordable residential apartments and a childcare facility with the re-syndication and preservation of 32 units of affordable housing in the Olneyville and Elmwood neighborhoods of Providence.

The new construction will be developed on a vacant lot adjacent to Providence Housing Authority’s (PHA) Manton Heights development. The project will transform a magnet for crime into much-needed safe, high-quality, affordable housing and early childhood education facilities for approximately 72 children. KSC will also facilitate access to Riverside Park, the Woonasquatucket River Greenway/bike path, and tie Manton Heights into the larger community. These critical needs were all identified in the Build Olneyville plan compiled by ONE|NB, PHA and Trinity Financial in 2014. The Plan was the result of hundreds of resident interviews and dozens of community-based stakeholder conversations funded by HUD’s rigorous Choice Neighborhood Initiative.

The in-situ rehabilitation of existing units (11 buildings) from ONE|NB’s Elmwood Neighborhood Revitalization I (ENR I) project will improve the quality of life for 32 families without displacement. ENR I, originally constructed in 2001, will undergo substantial renovation, including full kitchen, bathroom, and mechanical upgrades, partial window replacement, full roof replacements, exterior improvements, and electrical and fire safety upgrades.

Units in both projects will remain affordable for families earning at or below 80% of the area median income. This is essential given that the majority of households in the two neighborhoods are financially struggling. In Elmwood, 28% of families live below the poverty line and the median family income is $24,743, versus a citywide median of $32,058. In Olneyville, 36% of households earn less than $25,000, compared to 25% in the state overall. Providing access to basic needs for vulnerable populations is critical to strengthen our community. Thanks to support from Bank of America, we’re connecting over 50 individuals and families with safe, healthy housing.

ONE|NB Receives Grant from HarborOne Bank to Support Small Homes Construction!

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ONE|NB has been awarded a generous grant from HarborOne Bank to support the development of Sheridan Small Homes. Sheridan Small Homes is a cluster of five net-zero small homes sited at the end of Sheridan Street on the Woonasquatucket Greenway at the head of Riverside Park in Olneyville. Featuring affordability, energy efficiency, durability, sustainability, and community-centric living, the project is designed to be a model for a new and replicable approach to affordable homeownership in RI. The homes will be developed on land that is a blighted eye-sore between Riverside Park and newly developed 60 King Street apartments.