Here at NeighborWorks, we never lose site of the fact of our biggest aim as an organization is to generate affordable housing for Rhode Islanders.
On October 27, we were joined by U.S. Senators Jack reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Housing Secretary Josh Saal, RIHousing, funding and community partners and new homeowners, to celebrate the completion of Phase III and start of construction for Phase IV at the Fernwood ‘Mutual Self-Help’ Housing Development in Burrillville.
Employing one of our favorite new homeowner techniques, self-help housing, Fernwood is built in part by the homeowners themselves in an effort to preserve affordability within the 30-unit neighborhood. Located in Pascoag, Fernwood has thus far created 22 homeownership opportunities for families.
Rising housing costs have pushed homeownership out of reach for too many Rhode Island families. Federal investment supported the Fernwood development, which pairs interested families with construction professionals to build their own homes. Innovative developments like this one increase affordable housing options while forging a sense ofU.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
community among neighbors.”
The ‘Mutual Self Help Housing’ program, USDA Rural Development’s unique and innovative initiative, gives qualified first-time homebuyers the opportunity to work under the supervision of a construction manager to help build their own homes. Families work in teams, committing to 30 to 35 hours of work each week to building each other’s homes until the development is complete. This ‘sweat equity’ cuts the cost of each home nearly in half, making the dream of homeownership affordable for low- to moderate-income families.
NeighborWorks is excited to offer the sweat equity model of affordable homeownership in Rhode Island. It is not for the faint hearted, but for those who are able to put in the time and effort, this is a great opportunity to own their own. The ‘Selfies’ are the State’s frontline affordable housing do-ers. We celebrate them for their grit and determination to put a roof over their heads. We also acknowledge the support of our Federal, State & local partners who make it all possible with the financing and other financial support.”Joe Garlick, Executive Director of NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley.
The homes at Fernwood are located on individual lots within a cul-de-sac neighborhood on George Eddy Drive off of Reservoir Road in the village of Pascoag in Burrillville. Each home includes three bedrooms, 1.5 baths and is set on 1/3 of an acre of land within the development. The houses are designed to reflect the character of historic homes in the area. In addition to physically building their homes, homeowners choose the color and style of their house (Saltbox or Early American) prior to construction. They select
the layout, the colors, and finishes, making their houses truly their own.
“Celebrating newly constructed affordable homes for first-time homebuyers is a big deal,” said James Comer, Deputy Director of RIHousing. “Today, we are celebrating more than the completion of construction on these new homes. We are celebrating the families who recently moved into the homes
they worked so hard to build, achieving their dreams of homeownership. Working together, utilizing innovative funding programs, and bringing together federal, state, local, for and non-profit partners we can open the doors to homeownership for even more Rhode Islanders.”
The development stands on roughly 14 acres, preserving the surrounding open space. The site allows residents to live in a rural setting, with all the amenities of downtown Pascoag nearby. The new structures are Energy Star rated, built to conserve water, and feature renewable materials. Fernwood
was awarded a 2019 Outstanding Smart Growth Project Award from Grow Smart RI for its compact design and preservation of natural resources and open space. Its location, particularly quiet and without streetlights, illustrates its commitment to these design principles.
“The experience has been so wonderful for my partner Cindy and me,” shared June Degre, Fernwood III builder and homeowners. “We never thought we’d be able to build or afford our own home. It’s been hard work, but beyond well worth it. I highly recommend this program.”