BURRILLVILLE – An organization that helps to build homes for families with inadequate shelter has acquired two vacant lots in the village of Oakland, with plans to construct four single-family homes.
Habitat for Humanity of West Bay and Northern Rhode Island purchased both of the neighboring half acre parcels for $35,000 from Community Housing Land Trust of RI, Inc. The properties, with addresses of 1-3 Oakland School St. and 2-4 Oakland Ave., were both previously owned by Adler Bros. Development, LLC.
According to Louise Carriere of North Smithfield, co-treasurer of the local chapter, the transfer brings an end to negotiation of a deal that’s taken more than two years. With plans to build two single-family homes on each lot, the group is now working with various town departments to prepare for upcoming construction, which will begin with design and clearing of the land, along with digging and pouring the foundations.
Meanwhile, across town on Fox Run Drive, the group is finishing up a project to rehabilitate a house for another wheelchair-bound homeowner.
A national organization that has been building homes for those in need of shelter for four decades, Habitat operates under the principal that everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to live.
The chapter that works in Burrillville – Habitat of West Bay and Northern Rhode Island – is one of four in the state.
In 2018, volunteers working with Habitat in Burrillville helped to transform a lodge on Wallum Lake Road into a clean and efficient, low-maintenance home. Once complete, houses are sold to a qualifying families at no profit, through affordable, no-interest loans.
The Oakland project will be an ambitious one for the group, which has rehabilitated or built 26 homes in their target communities since their founding in 1999.
“We have not chosen homeowners as of yet because of all the items that need to come first,” explained Carriere of the four upcoming builds.
Potential future homeowners must apply for the program and pass a credit check, with the final decider on recipients made according to the condition of the family’s currently living quarters.
Carriere noted that it is not yet clear when the Oakland build will begin, and that work may be delayed due to the current wait time for contractors. Habitat house recipients typically do much of the work themselves, but professionals must be hired for some elements of the project.
“Construction companies are all so busy it is hard to get them to come,” Carriere said.
On Fox Run Drive, meanwhile, the group has been hard at work building ramps and rehabilitating a bathroom to make all aspects of that home accessible for the property owner.
An advocate for accessibility who also works as a spokesperson for Congressman Jim Langevin, Tina Pedersen was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Rhode Island in 2018. Carrierre notes that Pederson has been hands-on with the project to rehabilitate her Burrillville house, working independently to secure a chairlift to travel from the first floor to the basement by offering to promote the company on her website and blog.
Pederson also found a paving company that will donate the work for her driveway, and reached out to company EZ Snap On to donate baseboard heater covers.
And she’s become a vocal proponent of Habitat, recently posting a video about the organization and their work on her house on social media to help appeal for volunteers.
“Habitat for Humanity is not a house that is given to anybody. It is earned,” Pederson said. “You need to qualify and you need to put in the sweat equity and the hard work.”
Pederson noted that the opportunity to work on the structures amounts to a free home improvement class.
“My son learned to rewire the whole house for electrical. He’s also learned plumbing, painting, how to put in a floor, bathroom fixtures and everything else,” she said. “They take the time to teach.”
Pederson noted that volunteers can help as much or as little as they want, working part-time on Saturdays, contributing through a donation, or just dropping by to provide lunch for the crew.
“You’re helping community. You’re making community. You’re helping people live the dream that everybody dreams about,” Pederson said. “Habitat for Humanity makes dreams come true for those who can’t find it elsewhere.”
Carriere said the organization expects to hold a dedication at the Fox Run Drive property soon.
“We are almost done at this home,” she said.
The completion will mark just one more success story in the organization’s mission to provide decent living quarters for all Rhode Islanders in need.