Letter: We must demand affordable housing at Robin Rug

Posted 6/29/22

To the editor:The new development at Robin Rug will not benefit the people of Bristol without inclusion of affordable housing.Affordable housing is the answer for many people who have lived in …

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Letter: We must demand affordable housing at Robin Rug

Posted

To the editor:

The new development at Robin Rug will not benefit the people of Bristol without inclusion of affordable housing.

Affordable housing is the answer for many people who have lived in Bristol for generations, their children and others who work here. Bristol’s residents would have top priority in getting this affordable housing.

Obviously with its beauty, Bristol has become a desired location to buy a house or rent an apartment. That is great, but do we turn our backs on our own friends and family to say you no longer can afford to live here? We are seeing a generation of young people who cannot afford to live here where they grew up. These young people fill jobs that provide needed services to us and our local businesses. They volunteer for us, cook for us, clerk for us, fish for us, take care of our seniors, wait on on us.

But sorry, we don’t want you living with us? They bring in fish and assist us with boating, in the harbor. They can boat in our harbor, swim in our harbor but they cannot live in the planned development on our harbor? Discrimination against our own at its best. Are Bristol’s working people not good enough?

We also have many seniors on years-long waiting lists for affordable housing. Are they to be priced out of their lifelong Town as well?

We need to include housing for our Bristol seniors, Bristol families, Bristol neighbors, and Bristol friends within this development. The high rents will more than cover any losses created by discounted rents for Bristol’s people. The developer will get a discount on real estate taxes to help make up for those discounts.

In 2016, our Comprehensive Plan set a goal to create 10 percent of our housing as affordable, targeting Robin Rug specifically to include 10 units. The Town Council adopted new goals and passed a new law requiring 20 percent and removed the option of payment in lieu to buy out of the requirement. Payment of $40,000 per unit to the town in lieu of building the housing units is unacceptable — not nearly enough to create housing.
The latest Robin Rug proposal has ZERO affordable housing within the building.

At Robin Rug, they offered three apartments offsite, but will not include units within the building. This is a violation of Inclusionary Zoning provisions in Bristol’s law, that the housing be included and be equal to the other housing on site. We are talking about 100-127 apartments with high market rates. That would be 20 to 26 units that can be required for Bristol residents.

In addition, the Town Council’s newly enacted laws in January of 2021 which “shall apply to all subdivisions of five or more units and all land development projects including new development and redevelopment of existing buildings…at least 20 percent of the units on site must qualify as affordable housing...” The requirement goes on, stating, “First preference [is for] affordable units developed on-site.”

To those who say the new development on Thames Street should not include affordable housing for Bristolians because “it is on the water” we say why not? It’s the law!

Let’s look closely at the numbers. About 40 percent of Bristol residents qualify for a discount on their rents so they will not be priced out of their own town. Bristol’s median household income is $74,079, with individuals at $38,451. This means a household income of $59,263 could qualify for affordable housing.

Tenants of income-based apartments must have a good credit rating and steady income. Typically they pay 30 percent of their income towards rent plus utilities.

Affordable housing residents invest in a community just as much as any other neighborhood. When rents are guaranteed to remain stable, tenants move less often. Fewer cars are needed if residents can walk to their workplaces. More money is spent locally at businesses. It increases the pride of our community, the spirit of Bristol reaching out to help our own.

Kudos to the many organizations who help to feed and clothe our neighbors and to those trying to find affordable housing for our residents. The lists and the wait are so long. Let’s do the right thing Bristol. Call your elected officials to demand they address on site affordable housing at Robin Rug on Thames Street.

The Town of Bristol is better than this!

Jim & Jane Lavender
50 Thames Street

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.