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