Barrington Town Councilor Bill DeWitt is looking for allies to fight the state’s affordable housing mandate.
On Monday night, Mr. DeWitt said he would like to see a repeal of legislation enacted in 2004 that requires every community in Rhode Island to make at least 10 percent of its housing stock affordable. Mr. DeWitt said Barrington probably already has more than enough residents who meet the income requirements of an affordable home but these properties don’t have deed restrictions and therefore, don’t count towards the 10 percent goal.
Mr. DeWitt also said the 10 percent number seems “arbitrary” and puts the town in a bad position. Instead of constructing one large affordable housing development, Mr. DeWitt said, the geography of Barrington would require “sprinkling” development around town. Additionally, Mr. DeWitt said he heard a lot of misinformation regarding affordable housing at a recent informational meeting for a proposed Sowams Road development.
Town councilor Ann Strong agreed. The newly elected councilor and former planning board member said the town doesn’t have enough “raw land” to get to 10 percent.
“Right now, it’s one size fits all and it certainly doesn’t fit Barrington,” Ms. Strong said.
Council President June Speakman concurred that 10 percent is a difficult number to hit but she is “sympathetic” to the goal of the legislation in general. She proposed having a representative from Rhode Island Housing in to speak on the matter and how it is impacting other communities.
Ms. Strong, however, said she isn’t concerned about other cities and towns, she’s concerned about Barrington and would like to hear from communities with a similar profile.
Town Councilor Cynthia Coyne proposed a larger forum with State Representatives, Senators, RI Housing and other local communities.
Mr. DeWitt said if a type of coalition could be formed among several representatives of several communities, “people would take notice.” Mr. DeWitt also said he would like to see the legislation repealed because he doesn’t believe it can be fixed through amendments. Mr. DeWitt added that he believes there is a better way to approach affordable housing using “imagination” and “energy” and if the mater can garner some visibility, it might get people talking.
Ms. Speakman said she doesn’t believe legislators will be receptive to Mr. DeWitt’s potential “coalition” while councilor Kate Weymouth said she would support a review of the law.
In the end, before scheduling any type of conference, the town council decided to gauge the interest of Warren and Bristol officials at a tri-council meeting scheduled for Wednesday night.