September 1, 2014
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House of Hope gains funding for Fair House
FAIR HOUSE

The Warwick-based non-profit House of Hope Community Development Corporation was recently awarded $1.2 million for three separate projects from Building Homes Rhode Island, and is in the final stages of seeking approval for a Historic Tax Credit to assist in the renovations of Fair House in Pawtuxet Village.

The total funding, which was made possible through the State Bond Referendum last fall, was given to House of Hope as three separate awards: $1.1 million for the Fair House project; $45,000 toward renovations to a single-family home off West Shore Road; and $55,000 toward the rehabilitation of a two-bedroom unit in the House of Hope facility on Post Road. The three properties will provide housing for 10 currently homeless adults living with a disability and two currently homeless families.

Taylor Ellis, housing development manager for House of Hope, explained that the funding has been a huge help with the projects, especially for renovations to the Fair House, located at 69 Fair Street.

“It’s a huge help,” said Ellis. “That was a huge gap filler.”

Ellis explained that the best estimate for the cost of renovations to the historic property is $2 million, including the acquisition of the property and the estimated cost of construction.

“We’re still in the pre-development phase,” explained Ellis, adding that the architect and civil engineer are still determining what work will be done.

House of Hope purchased the Fair House in November 2012 for $185,000. The organization did a similar restoration project to the property next door, the George Galen Wheeler House at 57 Fair Street, and the neighborhood and city were pleased when House of Hope was able to acquire the Fair House.

The existing structure of the Fair House will be completely renovated to have five individual units for five formerly homeless adults living with disabilities. The project also includes the construction of an addition to the property to house another five adults. The Fair House will also have a Social Case Worker on site to assist the individuals with learning life skills and making connections in the community.

The model that will exist within the Fair House mirrors another House of Hope property, the Fran Conway House on Jefferson Boulevard, which has a 100 percent success rate in keeping individuals from falling back into homelessness. The Fran Conway House has been operating for 10 years.

The hope is that the Fair House proves to be just as successful.

“We’re really in good shape getting funding for the project,” said Ellis, adding that he hopes the remaining funding will be covered through a grant from Rhode Island Housing that House of Hope is currently in the process of applying for. That application is due in January.

The Fair House Project may also benefit from an estimated $220,000 Historic Tax Credit from the state.

“It’s an old program that was brought back,” explained Ellis.

According to the state of Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission’s website, the Historic Tax Credit was reinstated this summer by the General Assembly, who allotted $34.5 million in Historic Tax Credits in the state budget. The Credit is designed to help with the restoration of historic buildings throughout the state. If a project is approved, a credit equal to 25 percent of the cost of the rehabilitation work will be on one’s state income tax return.

Non-profits, like House of Hope, can qualify for the credit and assign or sell it to a tax-paying partner or investor.

“We were one of the projects selected in the first round,” said Ellis, explaining that all of the project applications were put into a lottery and selected that way. “We were fortunate to be in that first group considered by the state.”

Ellis explained that their application is in the last stage awaiting approval and expects the project will be approved for a credit of roughly $220,000 in January.

Ellis predicts that contracts for the Fair House project will go out to bid to general contractors in Summer 2014, work will begin in winter 2014, and the project will be complete sometime in 2015.

As for the other two renovation projects, both of those will eventually be inhabited by families who are currently homeless.

Ellis explained that the two-bedroom unit on Post Road is already owned by House of Hope, but is in need of renovations. “We are taking a substandard apartment and rehabbing it,” explained Ellis. It will be a rental apartment for a family with “extremely low income.”

As for the single-family home off West Shore Road, that is a foreclosed property that House of Hope has been able to acquire with help from the city of Warwick.

“The Building Home Rhode Island money from the state will really help in addition to our partnership with the city,” said Ellis.

He explained that the home was suffering from led, asbestos and mold problems.

“We’re completely renovating it,” said Ellis.

He added that the home would remain a property for low-income families for years to come, and an affordable housing option geared to be for a first-time homeowner and their family with less than 88 percent of the area’s median income.

“It’s designed for a low-income family just starting out,” said Ellis. “It will be a wonderful place once it’s renovated.”

Ellis predicts both of those will be completed by the spring of 2014.


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