Trustees Float 'Deed Restrictions'

Housing Board of Trustees says seniors on fixed incomes could benefit from 'deed restrictions' while creating more affordable housing in Barrington without building new units.

Barrington seniors on fixed incomes could benefit from an idea to create more affordable housing that was tossed around Tuesday night by the Housing Board of Trustees.

Plenty of details still need to be fleshed out by the housing board before the idea is turned into a proposal to go before the Town Council.

But the idea floated by Steve Martin, chairman of the board, would involve putting deed restrictions on existing homes to turn them into “affordable” homes. This would boost Barrington’s effort to meet the state mandate for affordable housing while also possibly helping certain seniors stay in their homes -- a problem for many seniors with low to moderate incomes.

“My opinion is that Barrington’s greatest need is for senior housing,” Martin said, “but that will be a major challenge.”

The idea of applying deed restrictions would be an attempt to deal with that challenge.

For the deed restrictions, home owners would receive some form of subsidy or benefit – such as a fixed property tax rate for up to 10 years or a freeze on the assessed value of the home for up to 30 years.

“All affordable housing needs some type of subsidy,” said Martin. “But it does not need to be cash considerations.”

Locking in the assessed property value of the home would be a subsidy, he said.

In short, the idea could possibly deal with the challenge of both senior housing and affordable housing without building more homes.

Paul Dulchinos of the Barrington Planning Board, a liaison to the housing board, presented a list of more than 250 homes in Barrington that could already meet the prices of affordable homes at Walker Farm Lane, Barrington’s affordable housing complex on County Road near Hundred Acre Cove. Those prices are $169,000 or $210,000, depending on income and cash subsidies.

Many of the homes are in the Bay Spring neighborhood or along Maple Avenue, Dulchinos said. But there are homes all over town. And many of those homeowners also benefit from the "circuit-breaker" tax reduction in Barrington.

Homeowners interested in turning their properties into affordable units would have to meet certain income guidelines: no more than 80 percent of the mean income in Barrington.

Richard Staples, a housing board member, said some homeowners might be able to cut their property taxes by up to half by making their homes “affordable.” This incentive could allow them to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives instead of forcing them to sell simply because they can’t afford their property taxes.

Applying deed restrictions on a home might upset an owner’s heirs, Staples said. But a homeowner using a reverse mortgage to meet expenses could leave nothing behind when they pass on, so this might be a better option because there would still be some value in the property.

Bill July 18, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Great idea! Lets tax the rest of the people in town that much more to make up the difference in lost revenue. Your not going to cut one persons taxes by half and not make it up somewhere else. It is also a great way to devaluate alot of property over time. Lets say I do it this year then two houses down they do it....5 years later half the homes in a neighborhood are "affordable" locked in for 30 years each. While taxes on the non-affordable homes are sky high to make up the difference in lost town revenue.
Gary Morse July 18, 2012 at 06:45 PM
We need sensible ideas, the best one being that this affordable legislation should be amended or eliminated entirely. In a state on the verge of financial ruin with plenty of affordable homes available, this is bad public policy. It's policies like this that got us to the bottom in the first place. The Patch regularly runs the "homes sold" list. There is always a large percentage of homes in the affordable category on this list. The issue has to do with houses with deed restrictions allowing property tax breaks paid for by the rest of us. That brings us to the question: where do these property tax breaks come from? Nobody seems to have a clear answer. They are not paid for by the state, but instead by local residents. The town tax assessor states it is due to "state law as interpreted by the town", the town being the town council. But the law on this is unclear and there is no written legal opinion on file specific to the actual statutes. The town only voted to implement the statutory provisions on this. But the statutory provisions only apply to rehabbed housing, not new construction. This is a mess that needs a proper review by someone other than the town attorney who also represents the developers.
Jack Baillargeron July 19, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Wow Barrington, this some scary interference in Home property rights for sake of some noble goal to create home ownership for those not as well off. Gee sounds like fannie Mae, did Barney Frank advise on this? Hope it stays in Barrington if your foolish enough to try it. Long term subsidizing allways haunts you in the end.
Barrington Resi July 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM
This is a really, really, really a BAD idea.
Barbara Donovan July 21, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Bill - you are absolutely correct --- this is a great way to devaluate the real estate in town. I think we need to have a clearer interpretation of the state law as it applies to Barrington. I find it hard to believe that we are being forced to "scrape up" any possible land to fulfill a quota. If that is truly the fact, I think the town should challenge it !! Where is our town attorney? And whose side is he on? A major conflict of interest? Maybe we need a new one!!
Jack Baillargeron July 21, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Must admit, after talking to a few people about this, it sounds a lot lke (Eminent Domain} but with a lot of smoke and mirrors, against property owners in Barrington. It just sounds evil. I hope people look real close at this.
Bill July 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Why can't we look into all the inlaw additions in town? Cant we list those as affordable housing to try to meet the State's strong arm way of getting everyone to suffer like providence and cf?
Gary Morse July 23, 2012 at 01:42 PM
The problem is that the deed restriction has to be tied to the land to meet the criteria, not the structure / apartment itself. This brings up an issue. Sweetbrier does not appear to have a deed restriction tied to the land, at least none that I can find. The town assessor might explain how Sweetbrier property tax subsidies are provided.
Bill July 23, 2012 at 04:23 PM
The state really needs to look at this law and how it is effecting the towns. Or the town needs to stand up and say NO!
P. Dulchinos October 09, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I agree that our first priority should be to get the burdensome yoke of this unjust housing law off of our necks; however, with current make-up of the state legislature – I do not see that happening anytime soon – So we can either continue to wring our hands and complain about the problem or we can be proactive and try to protect our town’s interests as best as we can. Even if we developed every buildable vacant lot in town under the mandated inclusionary zoning restrictions, we would never achieve the mandated 10% affordable housing inventory as required by the affordable housing law –
P. Dulchinos October 09, 2012 at 04:53 PM
My modest proposal is to get full credit for those homes in Barrington that should already be counted on the rolls as affordable. In addition, we would be taking care of our own town’s neediest citizens first. In return for accepting a 30 year deed restriction, I would support capping a qualifying resident’s property tax rate for up to five years (a revenue neutral proposition going into the first year). For the remainder of the deed restriction the property would then be assessed based on the affordable housing formula. There is a subsidy component to this initiative as taxes rates would be based on deflated housing values; however, it would help us meet the 10% affordable housing inventory without dramatically burdening our existing infrastructure or by over-developing our limited remaining open spaces. We would then be free to develop our town as our community sees fit and not as the State of Rhode Island mandates. Those members of our community who could qualify for affordable housing benefit under the current law could do so immediately without having to move from their current residences.
P. Dulchinos October 09, 2012 at 04:54 PM
We need to watch carefully the first test of our town’s current comprehensive plan – If the state housing board over turns our planning board denial of the “George Street Condominium Project”, then it will be a harbinger of bad things to come – The state will continue to force affordable housing developments on our community without regard to local control. We may be able to wait to take action on my initiative until after the results of the appeal board for “the Condos on the Preserves”; however, remember the Sowams Palmer Pointe Neighborhood Project with its 48 affordable units is looming on the horizon.
Gary Morse October 09, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Paul, You mention the "state housing board" as if they have a higher level of intellect in these matters. They don't They are bureaucrats with an agenda who are interpreting laws that should be challenged in court. They real question is exactly what did the General Assembly mean when in 2004, they rewrote the Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act at the same time the did the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act, and mandated both be recognized when writing the Comprehensive Community Plan. Why did they mandate both? The GA did a terrible job with writing the law, and now a bunch of agenda driven bureaucrats want everybody to think that this is what the law calls for so that towns like Barrington will think they have no choice. Take it to court! In the long run, it will cost less.


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