Town considers plan for senior housing; Sites on Steere Farm Road could host new 60-unit complex

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BURRILLVILLE – A committee appointed to explore the potential to build more senior housing in Burrillville has been looking at properties where the town could build a new residential facility, and is considering two sites on Steere Farm Road.

Councilor Stephen Rawson, who first brought forward the initiative last year, said that Burrillville’s Senior Housing Exploratory Committee has a plan that could allow the town to create a new housing complex for residents age 62 and up at no cost.

“We’re very fortunate. There’s seems to be an awful lot of money available for senior housing and for affordable housing,” Rawson told others on the council last week. “The way it looks, there would be little to no taxpayer money needed to complete this project if everything goes the way it’s planned.”

A feasibility study completed by real estate advisors Bonz and Company, Inc. found that the target market contains approximately 7,969 income-qualified senior households, and that projects currently underway in surrounding communities will not be sufficient to meet the demand.

“The suspicion that senior housing would be needed in the near future was agreed upon,” Rawson said of results of the study.

Rawson said the new units in Burrillville could be subsidized like Aston Court, but unlike that senior housing complex, would be privately run, like Stillwater Heights.

Last week, the exploratory committee visited two town-owned properties on Steere Farm Road up for consideration, including a 50-acre site by the elementary school. Officials estimate that the cost to build a housing complex containing 60, two and one bedroom, income-restricted units is around $20,000,000, and that multiple funding sources are available to cover construction.

The analysis by Bonz and Company noted that there is a shortage of affordable units not only in Burrillville, but statewide.

“The lack of available housing will attract households that would not typically consider Burrillville as a residential option,” the study notes.

If the units are rent-assisted as hoped, the housing would be open to those with household incomes of between $0 and $42,000, Bonz and Company noted.

The five-member exploratory committee led by Rawson, with Planner Ray Goff serving as advisor, held their first meeting last September, and has since met with state officials and local agencies that specialize in housing, such as NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley.

“This is a hard working committee – a very, very, good committee,” said Councilor Raymond Trinque, who also serves on the board.

While many elements of the plan – including a potential site for the building – are still under review, Rawson said the target date for completion of the project would be 2026.

Town Manager Michael Wood said that with the proposed changes to state law on affordable housing recently under consideration by the General Assembly, it’s a good idea for the town to stay ahead on the issue. State law currently requires that every community dedicate at least 10 percent of housing stock to affordable units.

“We’re a lot better than most cities and towns,” Wood said of Burrillville’s current stock. “If we stay ahead of it, we get to build the community we want.”

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