Written by Nicole LaFontaine, AICP, NK Planning's supervising planner for the Harbor View subdivision. A news story about the subdivision can be found here. An article about project written by Town Planner Jon Reiner can be found here.
There have been questions regarding the Harbor View subdivision affordable housing in North Kingstown. The Planning Department would like to give an overview of how the affordable housing system works in town. We do not know the exact selling price of the units at Harbor View and there is not one set number that we work with as there are many variables in pricing affordable housing. It is also important to note that this number is not created through the Planning Commission or Planning Department – it is a calculation typically done through Rhode Island Housing or a monitoring agency like Narragansett Affordable Housing Corporation.
There are two primary ways affordable housing is obtained or developed in North Kingstown. One is through a process called a “comprehensive permit for low and moderate income housing” and the other is a process called inclusionary zoning. A third occasional way of developing affordable housing is having an existing home or housing unit purchased by a non-profit corporation, renovated using public or private funds, and deed restricted to become affordable housing.
The comprehensive permit is a state-law regulated, all-inclusive, one-stop process where the developer goes only to the Planning Commission for review and relief (instead of also going to the Zoning Board). “Comp permits,” as they are called, require at a minimum 25 percent affordable housing. The income limit on the affordable units for comp permits vary depending upon whether they are rental or owner occupied units and what income limit range is created. For instance, the affordable units at the North Ridge subdivision on School Street allow for incomes that do not exceed 100 percent of area median income (AMI). Some developments have a range of 80 to 120 percent of AMI (the soon-to-be-in-process Stonecroft development on Boston Neck Road). Still others, like the Belleville House on Tower Hill Road, which are created to serve a different need (very-low-income senior rental) have lower requirements – these are restricted to households whose incomes do not exceed 50 percent of AMI and the units are age restricted to those 62 and over.
The other path, called inclusionary zoning, is what we require of all regular subdivisions throughout town. Harbor View is one of these. So is Hamilton Farm. Reynolds Farm will also include inclusionary units. Any time a proposed development includes a net addition of five or more housing units the developer is required to include no fewer than 10 percent of the housing units to be affordable to a household having an income of no more than 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). This ordinance was adopted in 2007. The developer is required to contract with a monitoring agency approved by Rhode Island Housing to determine pricing, qualify purchasers, and to assist in marketing.
Another interesting part of the puzzle is that the numbers change very often, so developers have to get in contact with RI Housing/monitoring agency right when they are ready to sell or rent the units because the calculation they were given during their permitting process could have changed due to the market.
Two developments have recently sold their affordable units. These are Wickford Cove, which was a comp permit, and Hamilton Farm, a regular subdivision utilizing inclusionary zoning. Both are condos, not houses, and their affordable selling prices were in the $290,000-$315,000 range. The developer of North Ridge has indicated his affordable units are priced around $245,000-250,000 but a year ago he was given the range of $280,000 from Rhode Island Housing, so it really just shows how much it changes. Every subdivision is different, and we really don’t know until the units are built and ready to be sold.
At the very minimum, deed restrictions for the affordable units last 30 years. Many older restrictions have the 30-year limit. Our inclusionary zoning and most of the affordable housing created today is committed to 99-year deed restrictions.
The goals of the affordable housing programs not only help us reach our state-required 10 percent affordable housing but also help North Kingstown obtain a range of housing choices to match the different needs of people living in town.