NARRAGANSETT – Hoping to make ground on campaign promises and the lack of local affordable housing stock, the town council on Monday unanimously approved the establishment of an affordable housing collaborative committee. The motion’s co-sponsor, town council president pro tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno, said the committee would function similarly to an equivalent committee in South Kingstown.

“South Kingstown is quite a bit ahead of Narragansett in their ideas and plans to help with this beast of trying to find affordable housing for families,” she said. “I shared the motion with [town staff] and spent some time talking about what this committee would be.”

“I think it’s a great time to get some people together to work with the town’s community development department, to work with the director of the housing authority to try and figure out some creative ways,” Cicilline Buonanno continued. “It certainly is a good plan to be thinking about how we can bring affordable housing into the Town of Narragansett. We’re quite a bit behind and we want to reach that 10 percent [goal].”

The state currently mandates that all cities and towns within Rhode Island designate at least 10 percent of housing stock as affordable. Narragansett, meanwhile, has lagged on that goal for a number of years. Recently, with an influx of homes designated for seasonal rentals and the construction of large, waterfront properties, a concern is rising locally that living in town is becoming out of reach for many within median or lower income brackets.

“We hear so often from people that they want their kids or other family members to move to the town and it’s just so untouchable,” said Cicilline Buonanno, who estimated that South Kingstown was 10 years ahead of Narragansett in developing affordable housing. “We have to study it, we have to come up with some incentives to make it work. I don’t know the answers, so I thought we should put a group together that has far more experience in the housing industry and market o see what we can do to help Narragansett.”

The newly established committee will serve in an advisory capacity to both the town council and the planning board and consist of seven members including one from the town council, the director of the town’s community development department and the director of the Narragansett Housing Authority.

According to the motion, the general purpose of the committee will be to recommend strategies, programs, policies and initiatives for increasing affordable housing; promote/advocate for their implementation; report biennial on the town’s progress against key performance measures and other benchmarks and assist the Town Council in overseeing their implementation, including the of affordable housing measures identified in the Affordable Housing Plan, a component of the Narragansett Comprehensive Plan.

“In addition, this committee acts as a local resource for the community relative to affordable housing opportunities,” the motion summary reads. “Potential appointees should have experience in issues related to housing affordability and/or an interest in working towards a policy and developing programs that will advance the Towns goals as cited in the Town Comprehensive Plan. Applicants shall comply with the Town Council’s Rules for Commission, Committee and Board Appointments.”

The motion was unanimously approved by the council, with councilor Patrick Murray noting he hoped the committee did not “get too out of control.”

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