Cherry Hill Lane project attracts interest

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 6:45pm
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There was excitement in the air as 30 people signed in at Town Hall on Tuesday evening with the hope of becoming applicants for one of five single-family homes being sold by the Block Island Housing Board.

The modular homes, two with two-bedrooms priced at $250,000, and three three-bedroom homes listed at $320,000, are located off Cooneymus Road. Each sits on a 15,000 square-foot lot and are part of the board’s affordable housing initiative. The lottery drawing is slated for Thursday, Oct. 17 at Town Hall. Completed applications must be submitted to Deputy Town Clerk Millie McGinnes by the Oct. 15 deadline.

One mortgage lender, Bill Huggins from Residential Mortgage Services, said a monthly mortgage payment for a two-bedroom home, with no money down, could cost as much as $1,548 per month. The monthly, no-money-down mortgage for a three-bedroom home would be $1,839.

According to the application, “successful lottery winners must provide proof of mortgage commitment and certificate of completion of First Time Home Buyers Class.” Winning applicants are required to present a $5,000 deposit for purchase of the home in the form of a bank or certified check. Applicants must engage an attorney to represent them for closing purposes. Closings are scheduled for January of 2020.

People packed into a standing room only chamber to hear information about the homes from the Housing Board, and financial details and options from two mortgage lenders: Huggins, and Gina Mead from Washington Trust.

The turnout seemed to please Cindy Pappas, Chair of the Housing Board, who said prior to the meeting that she was hoping people would come. “It’s an exciting time,” she said with a smile. “We’re looking forward to getting people into homes.”

Greeting the assemblage, Pappas said, “It sure is nice when you throw a party and people come. We’re so glad to see you here. It has taken us years to get to this meeting. And, we are so happy to have you with us to share the details of the Cherry Hill Lane project; to celebrate that we got to this point; and to plan the future together.”

“This is only the second project of the Block Island Housing Board,” said Pappas, noting that land for the homes was provided by the generosity of “Marianne Brown and Steve Smith — almost a decade ago. We also owe a great debt of thanks to the Town Council for their vision and support of the need for affordable housing; to the Planning Board for their support and guidance along the way. And, we are very grateful for each property owner, who faithfully pays the one percent fee on seasonal rentals.”

Pappas also expressed her appreciation for the island contractors who have helped with construction of the project, including Bain Transue, Mike Ernst, Billy Rose, Jeff Johnson, and Rick Batchelder. “They truly sharpened their pencils to enable us to get this project off the ground.”

“I also have some breaking news,” said Pappas. “This Friday the site is going to be evaluated to see if we might be the beneficiary of solar panels for the homes.” She said the solar panels would be installed per “an island benefactor interested in reducing greenhouse emissions. So that might even become a reality for us; pretty exciting news.”

Pappas said the most important question for the room full of hopefuls is: “Am I eligible to purchase an affordable home on Block Island? There are a few requirements. First and foremost, you must be a year-round Block Island resident, and you have to agree, and affirm, that you, personally, will be occupying this property full time.”  

She said the board’s “reason for creating these housing opportunities is to provide stable housing for families that live and work here, year-round. So, if you run a business for four months of the year, and you spend the rest of the year elsewhere, or you’re looking for a place to house your employees for the summer, this is not a match for you.”

Other requirements include the State of Rhode Island’s guidelines, denoting income limits. “In order to be eligible you need to make enough money to be able to purchase a house, but you can’t make too much money,” said Pappas. The income limit for one person is $81,150; for two people it is $92,700, etc. Pappas also said an applicant cannot own another property (i.e., a condo, home, or vacant land) within 30 days of closing.

Each board member then took a moment to speak.

Kay McManus then gave an overview of the layout of the homes: “These are modular homes with full basements, mudrooms and porches.” The homes were designed by the Pennsylvania-based ICON Legacy, and constructed by Warwick-based Pariseault Builders.

Millie McGinnes described easements and restrictions of the property, noting that the homes stay in the affordable housing pool; resale price will be restricted; homes cannot be rented; and “there is no future development allowed.”

Michael Kiley detailed the property’s landscaping, which, he said, will be replete with cherry trees. He noted that final seeding and landscaping will occur next spring when the weather is more accommodating.

Rosemary Tobin discussed the financial aspect of the application process, which she said can be scary, but shouldn’t be. She, as well as the lenders, said applicants needed to “get to know themselves financially.”

John Spier illustrated how the lottery works, noting that if applicants are “prequalified,” and approved, names are placed in a jar and “somebody picks them. The first name out will be for house number one,” and so forth, he said. “The smaller houses are designated one and two,” while “the larger houses are designated: three, four, five.”

Spier noted that applicants can fall out of the running for a home at any time during the process, for various reasons, so there could be a chance of occupancy for other applicants.

Stacey Henshaw, who lives in an existing affordable home, explained how the homeowners association will operate: it will be comprised of one affordable housing resident and a member of the Housing Board, as well as a treasurer. HOA fees are $25 per month, which Huggins included in his financing options package. Pappas said that while hardwood floors, carpeting and tile are included in the homes, kitchen appliances, such as dishwashers, microwaves, as well as washer/dryer units are not included.

“We’re really, really happy to see you all here,” said Pappas. “Our only regret is that there are only five houses, but we encourage you to get your applications in, and hope for good things.”

Her words were met with applause.