CHARLESTOWN — A nonprofit organization will help Charlestown continue to apply for and receive federal grant money to increase affordable housing.
The Town Council on Feb. 12 voted for Charlestown to join the Washington County Community Development Corporation.
Charlestown and other area communities have long been associated with the Community Development Consortium, founded in 1996 by director Geoffrey Marchant. It’s been the go-to organization for Community Development Block Grant funds for affordable housing in this part of the state.
Marchant retired from the role in January, but he’s said he’ll be available to help with the transition.
“When it became clear retirement was where I was going, I wanted to take steps to give the towns a choice,” Marchant said.
He was a cofounder, in 2005, of the Washington County Community Development Corporation, and approached its governing board about assuming the role that was his for two decades. The board was agreeable to the move.
Marchant published a request for proposals throughout southern Rhode Island offering other entities the chance to offer their services, he said. But the Washington County group was the only respondent, he said.
Navigating the CDBG grant application process can be a challenge, especially for towns with no staff dedicated to the process.
“It’s complicated stuff these days,” Marchant said.
The Washington County CDC hired Alice Buckley as its new executive director on Jan. 1.
Buckley comes with a long history of work in the housing and affordable housing sphere, including South County Community Action’s Self Help Housing Program and the CDBG Home Repair Grant Program.
“Alice comes from a very varied background,” Marchant said. “She worked on CDBG early when it kicked off in Rhode Island back in the late-eighties.”
Having ties to the Washington County CDC will benefit Charlestown, Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz said.
“Geoff is right, it’s very complicated. And if we do it in-house, we’d have to pull other folks off their work,” he said. “We don’t do it enough to become good at it. Rules change, there’s a lot of implementation protocol to know. So we like to leave it to the folks who know how to do it best.”