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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — A new committee will soon get to work on efforts to increase affordable housing in Narragansett.

The Town Council on April 19 voted unanimously in favor of establishing a Narragansett Affordable Housing Collaborative Committee. The seven-member body will include a member of the council, the director of the Housing Authority and the director of Community Development.

Council President Jesse Pugh and President Pro Tempore Susan Cicilline Buonanno introduced the measure, although Pugh acknowledged that “Susan did the bulk of the work on that.”

Cicilline Buonanno explained that years ago, an affordable housing commission existed in Narragansett. She said she had attended a meeting of South Kingstown’s affordable housing collaborative group, which prompted her to act.

“They’re quite a bit ahead of Narragansett in their ideas and plans to help with this beast of trying to find affordable housing for families — and just people that want to live in the community,” she said.

The South Kingstown group had money available to commission studies on how to meet affordable housing goals, she added, including the goal of 10% affordable housing in communities.

“I’d say they’re about 10 years ahead of us, and certainly a model we could learn and grow from,” she said.

Cicilline Buonanno also met with the local Housing Authority and director of Community Development to discuss the idea and seek input.

“I think it’s a great time to get some people together, to work with the community developer, to work with the director of the Housing Authority to try to figure out some creative ways — and I don’t know how you beat the market or how to solve this — but it certainly is a good plan to be thinking about how we can bring affordable housing to the town of Narragansett,” she said.

Pugh said he had initial concerns years ago, when Cicilline Buonanno first advocated for such a committee, that its work would clash with efforts by the local Housing Authority.

“I don’t have those concerns anymore,” he said. “Susan spoke with the Housing Authority and they are enthusiastic about it.”

The committee will advise both the Town Council and the Planning Board.

It will be charged with recommending strategies, programs, policies and initiatives for increasing affordable housing, and will be able to promote and advocate for its implementation in the town.

The committee will also provide regular reports of progress to the town on whether it is meeting key performance measures and benchmarks.

Guiding the work will be several affordable housing measures in the Affordable Housing Plan, which is part of the Narragansett Comprehensive Plan.

Appointees will have experience in issues around housing affordability, and the committee will also act as a resource for the community to find affordable housing opportunities.

“I don’t know the answers, so we’re putting together a group that has far more experience in the housing industry and the market to see what we can do to help Narragansett,” Cicilline Buonanno said. 

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