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East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, ONE|NB Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins, Rhode Island Secretary of Housing Josh Saal, Deputy Executive Director of RIHousing James Comer, and Sen. Jack Reed speak at the ribbon-cutting for Sutton Place, 54 & 60 Sutton Ave., in East Providence. The development makes the city the seventh municipality in the state to reach the 10 percent threshold for affordable housing.

By Stephen Ide
ONE Neighborhood Builders

PROVIDENCE—ONE Neighborhood Builders, along with U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva, the state’s Secretary of Housing Josh Saal, and Deputy Executive Director of RIHousing James Comer, cut the ribbon after announcing the completion of renovations to the 36-unit Sutton Place in East Providence. With the opening of the newly completed rehabilitation, East Providence became the seventh municipality in the state to reach the 10% threshold for affordable housing. 

Sutton Place is ONE|NB’s first Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) project, with 22 one-bedroom and 14 studio apartments that are affordable for individuals and families at low- and moderate-income levels. NOAH projects like Sutton Place improve existing housing that is currently affordable for modest-income renters and preserve its affordability long-term.

Without ONE|NB and its partners, along with the City of East Providence, the property couldn’t be improved and kept affordable.

“When this newer property came on the market, we leapt at the chance to acquire it and protect it,” Hawkins said. “We have renovated the interiors … made upgrades to the fire system, the electrical system, we replaced a roof and we improved the building envelope. Residents were offered a one-year lease. And rents have been adjusted relative to incomes. Two apartments are now occupied by persons who experienced chronic homelessness. And seven more apartments are reserved for very low income households who have a project-based rental voucher.”

Sutton Place, two identical buildings at 54 & 60 Sutton Avenue, were built in 1970 and required substantial renovation. ONE|NB’s renovations included installing new windows and doors in common areas, landscaping, parking lot repairs, and a new roof at 54 Sutton. The roof at 60 Sutton was replaced in 2020. Individual apartments underwent substantial renovations, including new flooring, plumbing, kitchen and bath cabinets and countertops, new windows, doors, and fire and electrical code upgrades.

East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva said, with federal, state, and local partners, he hopes East Providence will get beyond the 10% state threshhold for affordable housing, and he noted that only a handful of communities are welcoming new housing opportunities. “We encourage other municipalities to think outside the box,” he said. “With over 1,200 units currently under construction, or permitted, East Providence is addressing the problem head on. Sutton Place is a prime example of what can be done.”

“Sutton Place is a great example of what can be done if we work together at every level of government and with our not-for-profit sector,” said Sen. Jack Reed, who helped create the Affordable Housing Trust Fund in 2008, money from which helped contribute to the renovations at Sutton Place. “These renovated buildings preserve affordable opportunities for people from all walks of life to live together and also to contribute to the community, and for children, particularly, to get a chance to go to one school a year, not three or four. And that’s so critical to the future of this country.”

Reed thanked ONE Neighborhood Builders and RI Housing for making affordable housing a priority. “You’ve done it from Sheridan Small Homes, to Delaine Street Apartments, to Sutton Place, and on and on and on. Don’t stop. We need you.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse thanked ONE|NB, but also noted the larger “ecosystem” that goes into making affordable housing possible. “One of the things that Jack and I hear wherever we go around Rhode Island is the urgent need for housing, housing, housing, housing, and then employees, employees, employees,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “I don’t think there’s an industry or group we work with that doesn’t have those immediate concerns. So this is a very happy day for us to see this project go forward.”

Secretary of Housing Josh Saal noted that real progress is being made in Rhode Island, and he thanked the efforts of ONE|NB, its partners, and Mayor DaSilva. “The completion of this project is a big deal,” Saal said. “These 36 newly rehabilitated units means 36 households will have a healthy, safe and affordable place to call home.”

Saal said far too many Rhode Islanders are faced with unpredictable financial circumstances. Housing stability allows them to have peace of mind and the ability for them to invest in their communities and in themselves, he said, and he praised the efforts of East Providence.

“Mayor DaSilva is clearly not just talking that talk, but he’s walking the walk when it comes to investing in housing. He understands,” Saal said. “And when it comes to long term economic development, and improving the quality of East Providence residents, it all starts with housing. … the whole team in East Providence are setting a model for the difference-making role that local communities can take when it comes to addressing Rhode Island’s housing supply shortage. And it’s a model we’re looking to build upon in other areas of the state.”

James Comer, the Deputy Executive Director of Rhode Island Housing, said it’s complex and expensive making projects like Sutton Place happen, but it’s worth it when you see the opportunities provided to families. “The fact that rental prices across the state are increasing, the fact that rental prices in East Providence certainly are skyrocketing, it’s harder and harder for people to find places they can afford,” he said, “And so creating a permanent resource like this is essential to having every Rhode Islander have the best opportunity they can. And I want to be clear, this is not an East Providence issue. This is a statewide issue. We need Sutton Places in every community throughout the state. “