When the Newport City Council tackled the issue of affordable housing again Monday evening, there were some interesting methods discussed about how to provide housing for the lower middle class and the poor. But the elephant in the room remained that while “tweaking” efforts to provide more affordable housing may produce some renovation or even new construction, it still won’t come close to providing more than a few precious units – because giving tax breaks and fee reductions can’t close the big gaps between high prices for land and the lack of ENOUGH financial help from state and federal governments. Many housing assistance non-profits are building some low income housing, but the need still way outstrips the supply. And housing forecasters predict the country’s housing situation will likely get much worse before it gets better, if that’s even possible.
Yet the council pushed ahead and listened to Community Development Director Derrick Tokos outline some low hanging fruit which included reducing city fees for sewer and water hookup, putting a construction excise tax on new construction and offering property tax exemptions for affordable housing projects, including three to four story apartment/condo buildings, if they could find room for them – or make room for them. Such imposing structures could be built by non-profit housing agencies that specialize in that kind of construction. There are also fertile possibilities in converting business buildings that are not using their second or third floors which could be converted to affordable apartments.
The next step in the apparently long, tedious road to providing affordable housing in the Newport area is for folks to attend a public meeting June 26, 6pm, at Newport City Hall. The commission wants to hear from the public about Newport’s housing situation and receive citizen observations and recommendations about what might be done about it.