When the federal government repossessed the Medina Village apartments off Cranston Street in Providence’s West End in 2010, there was a real possibility the 22 vacant and decaying buildings in the complex would be abandoned.
Located in one of the hardest hit, foreclosure-ridden neighborhoods in the city, the complex relied on Section 8 federal rental supports, which the government has been scaling back since the 1980s.
“If there was no Section 8, most likely the properties would have been abandoned,” said Richard Godfrey, executive director of Rhode Island Housing, the nonprofit lender that stepped in and bought the properties from the federal government for $1.
“When the [U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] foreclosed, the properties had deteriorated to the point of being unsound,” he added. “The cost to rehab those properties in that neighborhood would not be supported by the rents you could get without Section 8. They would not be viable.”
So Rhode Island Housing, the state and its congressional delegation began working on a way to redevelop the 83-unit, scattered-site complex in a way that would retain the low-income rental supports.
They lobbied HUD to keep the rental supports in place and assembled a financing package using a mix of state and federal grants, loans and tax credits to entice a developer to come in and revitalize the properties.
This past winter, the results of that effort were realized as residents began moving into the renovated and expanded development, now called the Phoenix Apartments. “I think 83 units is a significant amount scattered through the West End and having families and individuals in these buildings and active and outside in the neighborhood is very important to the community,” said Jeanne Cola, executive director of the Rhode Island office of the Local Initiatives Support Corp., which led neighborhood outreach efforts on the redevelopment project. “People are proud to live in these new units. What was there before was not very nice. It is a symbol of optimism that there is investment in this community.”