Reporters and supporters take part in a press tour of 350 Taunton Avenue in East Providence
on Thursday, May 11, 2023. Ian Donnis/The Public’s Radio
By Ian Donnis
The Public’s Radio
Supporters of the Taunton Avenue Collaborative — a plan to build an affordable 160-unit apartment complex on a blighted three-acre site in East Providence — say it’s missing one crucial ingredient: a $28 million state appropriation to move the project forward.
The collaborative brings together four nonprofits (One Neighborhood Builders, Crossroads RI, Foster Forward and Family Service of Rhode Island) on a development designed to tackle a part of Rhode Island’s housing crisis with affordable units, social services for residents and an early childhood learning center.
Twenty-five of the apartments would be reserved for individuals and families who have experienced homelessness, 20 will go to young people who have aged out of foster care, and 20 units would go to people who have interacted with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families or who are at risk to do so. The remaining 60 apartments would be reserved for households making a low-to-moderate income, approximately $45,000 to $90,000 for a family of two.
Supporters described a close link between housing and other social issues.
“FSRI got involved in this project because we serve folks throughout the lifespan and in all the services that we do, we kept hearing over and over again about the need for housing,” said Ben Weiner, chief operating officer of the agency. “It comes up when with children, when we work with families, when we work with adults.”
Crossroads RI CEO Karen Santilli called the Taunton Avenue Collaborative the kind of project needed to make an impact in reducing the state’s housing crisis.
“This project, when our vision is fulfilled, will literally be taking people off of the housing and shelter wait-list,” Santilli said, “and will have a direct correlation to helping us end housing in Rhode Island.”
The collaborative said it has secured more than $3 million for the project, and that a $28 million appropriation from American Rescue Plan Act funds would enable the complex to open in the summer of 2025. The site is currently occupied by a run-down former nursing home and two vacant lots.
House spokesman Larry Berman said Speaker Joe Shekarchi has a favorable view of the proposal.