Tammy Nelson (Newport Housing Authority), Tommy Sheehan (Hi-Lo Neighborhood Association), Arleen Kaull (Middletown Senior Center)

The following press release is from the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission.

On Friday, March 15, Aquidneck Island Planning Commission hosted Aquidneck Island residents, business owners, elected officials, and others for an in-depth look at the state of housing on Aquidneck Island. The forum consisted of three expert panels followed by interactive break-out sessions.

Break-out sessions were designed to generate ideas that will help address housing challenges on the Island. John Shea, AIPC Executive Director said, “we are focused on creating a shared vision of the future success of the island, so we wanted to bring together people from different backgrounds to work together on a solution to ensure that the Island’s housing availability meets our needs now and in the future.”  

Panelists provided varying perspectives. John DiTomasso of AARP Rhode Island said that fewer older Rhode Islanders are able to stay in their homes due to a vast amount of old housing stock that is not conducive to accessibility, combined with fixed incomes and a lack of retirement savings. He said, “we need to be proactive. It calls for work on the town and state level.”

Ashley Medeiros of Connect Greater Newport brought an economic perspective, saying, “many businesses in the area report that talent attraction is their number one barrier to business growth. We have many of the amenities the millennial workforce wants, but they need affordable rent and home prices if they are going to settle here.”

Kristine Hendrickson of Salve Regina University echoed that sentiment, saying that “a lack of affordable, year-round housing is one aspect that contributes to ‘brain drain’ in the retention of our graduates to work in needed fields, as well as the recruitment and retention of quality faculty to grow academic programs.”

Gary Crosby of Portsmouth and Ron Wolanksi of Middletown presented their towns’ current and future housing initiatives. Other presenters included Annette Bourne (HousingWorks RI), Lynn Ceglie (City of Newport), Christian Belden (Church Community Housing), and John Marcantonio (Rhode Island Builders’ Association).

House Representative Lauren Carson said, “Thank you to AIPC for organizing such an important event. The conversation that this event provided is critical. This problem is not going away any time soon, so as we have these conversations, we can begin to create long-term policies.” Elected officials present included Jamie Bova, Lauren Carson, Lynn Ceglie, Terri Cortvriend, Dawn Euer, Terri Flynn, Rick Lombardi, Angela McCalla, Justin McLaughlin, Jeanne-Marie Napolitano, Deb Ruggiero, Susan Taylor, Linda Ujifusa, and Barbara VonVillas.

The findings of the forum are being compiled and will be available at aquidneckplanning.org.

Anyone wanting to stay informed of AIPC events and initiatives can join the Connect Aquidneck monthly newsletter by emailing cnelson@aquidneckplanning.org.

Event was sponsored by Bank Newport, Discover Newport, AARP-RI, and Newport County Contractors’ Association.

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