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Kingstown Crossings

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Eagle Street residents.

Introduction: Housing for Homeless Families

When the U.S. Navy closed the Quonset Point and Davisville Navy bases in North Kingstown, Rhode Island in the 1980s, the government announced that surplus housing associated with the bases would be made available to an organization that provides housing for the homeless.

In the early 1990s, Crossroads Rhode Island, a provider of housing services for the homeless, leased the property to provide transitional housing for homeless families. The organization eventually purchased the site, demolished the military housing, and began construction of Kingstown Crossings, a three-phase project that includes 104 affordable apartments and a community center and child care center.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston's Affordable Housing Program helped finance phase I and phase II of the initiative with grants and subsidized advances through member Bank Rhode Island.  

In this AHP multimedia profile, tour the Kingstown Crossings initiative (Crossroads Apartments), visit with residents, and learn how Crossroads Rhode Island transformed an aging military housing site into an affordable development for low-income Rhode Island residents. (Photo: The Smith family at Kingstown Crossings I.)


The Developer

Michelle Wilcox is chief operating officer at Crossroads Rhode Island.

In 1992, Crossroads — which was then known as Travelers Aid Society of Rhode Island — responded to an announcement in the Federal Register for federal surplus property — former Navy property in North Kingstown — that was being offered to organizations providing services to the homeless.

The property — referred to as Davisville housing — became available following the decommissioning of two nearby Navy bases — Quonset Point and Davisville.  In 1992, we entered into a 20-year lease with the federal government of a 14-acre parcel adjacent to Davisville that had been naval officers housing.  There were 58 three- and four-bedroom apartments on the parcel, and we would be leasing the site for one dollar a year. After 20 years we either had to take ownership of the property or give it up.

We were awarded the property to provide transitional housing for homeless families. Transitional housing is typically up to 24 months, though some folks stay less time and other folks stay longer. (Photo right: View of Kingstown Crossings I.)


At about the halfway point of the 20-year lease, we started looking at plans to redevelop the site. We had a capital needs study done of the existing structures and decided that it wouldn't be cost effective to renovate the property and that what we really needed to do was demolish the existing buildings and build new ones. This would enable us to add more units and make more efficient use of the site. This was typical military family housing with very large units that were nice for larger families but not energy efficient.

At the same time that we were looking at the physical structures, we were reviewing the kind of housing we were providing on the site.  Money for transitional housing programs was going away and we were finding it more and more difficult to operate the housing there.  In 2006, we were awarded HUD project-based Housing Choice vouchers for all 58 units on the site and converted our program from transitional to permanent, supportive housing.

We then put together a plan to redevelop the site. The street that ran through the site — Navy Drive — was a one-way street that ran up the middle of this very long, narrow property. It felt like a raceway. Houses faced the street on either side. It wasn't a good space for kids to play, and we had lots of kids living there.

(Photo right: The Smith family at Kingstown Crossings I.)


Our architect worked with us to reimagine the site. We removed the main drag and created four courts, lots of community space, and a walking path that meanders through the 14-acre property. We put the plan together and went to the town for approval.

Kingstown Crossings I had two phases.  Phase I was the construction of 26 units on the most western portion of the site — on land that had previously been used as a baseball field.  We built as many units as we could on the vacant land and moved families from the old units into them. Then we demolished the units those families had been living in and built 32 more units. After that we moved the rest of the tenants into the new buildings and demolished the remaining old units. 

Kingstown Crossings II involves construction of 46 additional units on land that became available after the last of the original units were demolished.  Phase II — which will have all new tenants — was completed in June 2013. We're also planning a third phase for the site — a child care and community center.

We received Low Income Housing Tax Credits and AHP awards to help finance both Kingstown Crossings I and Kingstown Crossings II. Other Kingstown Crossings I funding included HOME funds, Rhode Island bond funds for housing, state Neighborhood Opportunity Program funds, and Community Block Grant funds.

(Photo right: View of Kingstown Crossings II.)


Just as we were getting ready to start construction the mortgage crisis struck and the market for tax credits went down the drain. This was obviously a major problem for us. But we were very grateful to see the arrival of stimulus funding and the Tax Credit Assistance Program, which allowed us to convert our tax credits to TCAP. Under TCAP, the equity investor ended up being the government, though the intent was to preserve the possibility of an investor coming in later when the market recovered. This was what eventually happened — though a lot later than we expected.

Taking Ownership
The last piece of the puzzle involved taking ownership of the property. We were still working under our original lease with the federal government because we didn’t want to take ownership until the last possible minute. The property wasn't taxed as long as it was owned by the federal government.

When we were ready to take ownership I communicated with our contact in Washington. I had joined this organization in 1993 when the project was originally being developed as transitional housing, so I knew the project's history.

(Photo right: View of Kingstown Crossings II.)


It was at this point that we ran into a snafu. The powers that be in Washington decided we had been out of compliance with our lease for the last three years because the lease was for transitional housing but we had converted the site to permanent housing. They said they were no longer able to transfer the property to us.

Beginning in January 2009, we spent the next 18 months in a nightmare of legal and federal government muck. We couldn't find anyone in the federal government with the authority to resolve the problem because there was confusion about who owned the property. It turns out that the property had been transferred internally within the government and ended up under the authority of an Air Force base in Texas.

We reached out to the Corporation for Supportive Housing and received pro bono legal help through the National Law Center on homelessness and poverty. A local attorney here in Rhode Island agreed to help us.

We also found Robert G. Lee, legal counsel for Lackland Air Force base in Texas, who decided it was ridiculous for us to be in this position and was committed to helping us. Through his work and the work of our pro bono legal help we ended up purchasing the property for $99,000.

(Photo right: View of Kingstown Crossings II.)


The original plan had been to take ownership of the property for $1, but the situation had become so complicated that we decided the best solution was to pay a nominal fee for it. We had already given our contractor a notice to proceed at his own risk because our tax-credit-assistance money, which had to be spent by a certain date, was about to expire. I can say this today and laugh a little, but at the time the situation was very stressful.

Crossroads Rhode Island
Crossroads was founded in 1894, but we were known as the Travelers Aid Society of Rhode Island until 2004. In the 1980s, we started to provide services to the homeless population. The name change to Crossroads Rhode Island coincided with our move to the former YMCA building in Providence.  We purchased that building and took over the SRO housing the YMCA had been operating there. We also operate a 41-bed shelter for single women there and a family shelter at another location.

In Rhode Island, the housing situation has been as bad as anywhere in the country — if not worse. The housing situation for families in particular has been horrendous. For the last 27 or 28 months, we have broken every prior month's record for the number of new families coming to us seeking shelter. The Rhode Island economy has not really recovered. We're still second, third, or fourth in the country in unemployment.  Some months we go back to being number one. (Photo right: The Coughlin family at Kingstown Crossings I.)


At the same time, housing costs here are quite high. By and large the families we are seeing have been on a downward spiral for a couple of years.  Many are families that lost their jobs in the initial wave or two of the recession and are still trying to recover. We hear the same story from our colleagues in housing services throughout the country. It's not quite as dramatic for single people who can double or triple up, but it's difficult to do this when you have children.

Last year we went through a strategic planning process and revised our mission and our vision. We made a very significant change to our mission statement.  Our goal before was to provide a continuum of care to people experiencing homelessness, but the statement now says our goal is to help people secure stable homes. It's a very deliberate change that reflects our current 'housing first' mindset. We are in the midst of thinking about whether it makes sense to convert more of our transitional housing to permanent housing, as we did in North Kingstown.

(Photo right: View of Kingstown Crossings II.)


North Kingstown
North Kingstown is a fairly affluent community. The base closings certainly had an impact on the economy of the community.  It has a number of low-income housing developments, but they tend to be clustered together, which is pretty typical in towns. North Kingstown was a military community for many years, which adds a certain flavor to the town as well as an appreciation and understanding of transience and the folks we brought in.

When we were attempting to get our comprehensive plan approved in 2006 and 2007, there were folks who showed up at the planning and zoning board meetings to speak against the development. It was the usual complaints about crime and taxes. Opponents of the plan usually lived nowhere near the building, but they didn't want their taxes to go up. The fact is the property is beautiful and well maintained. I can't imagine it decreasing property values, but there are always going to be naysayers. The majority of our neighbors know we are part of the neighborhood, which is a positive thing. It’s a very small minority that is negative, which is true no matter where you go.

(Photo right: View of the Kingstown Crossings I community garden.)


Video Tour

Take a video tour of Kingstown Crossings with Jan Hall-Stinson, director of housing at Crossroads Rhode Island.

Video: Click on the Start link at the right to tour Kingstown Crossings.

(Photo right: Jan Hall-Stinson, director of housing at Kingstown Crossings.)



The Numbers: Kingstown Crossings I

FHLB Boston AHP Direct Subsidy
Permanent AHP Subsidized Advance
Low Income Housing Tax Credits
RI Housing Tax Credit Assistance Program
Town of North Kingston - RI Neighborhood Opportunities Program, Housing Resources Commission
RI Housing HOME Funds
RI Housing Resources Commission - Building Homes RI Bond Fund
Community Development Block Grant
Sponsor Equity and Grants
Sale of Land
Total Sources



Financing Fees
Legal Fees
Other Soft Costs
Capitalized Reserves
Capitalized Replacement Reserve
Developer Fees
Total Uses


The Residents

Michelle Wilcox is chief operating officer at Crossroads Rhode Island.

Kingstown Crossings I is permanent supportive housing for families who were homeless. All of the 58 units have project-based Housing Choice vouchers. The families all meet the HUD definition of homeless. Many of our families have been with us for some time — all the way back to when we were operating as transitional housing prior to 2006.

When the program changed to permanent housing, families applied and were able to stay on with us.  We don't have a lot of vacancy, in part due to the fact that the Section 8 vouchers make it affordable to formerly homeless folks and also because North Kingstown is a very desirable community with great schools. Our residents come from all over the state.

Crossroads Rhode Island provides a full range of services to people who are experiencing homelessness, including emergency shelter and transitional and permanent supportive housing. We are our own source of tenants for Kingstown Crossings I.  Families who are in our emergency shelter are obviously queued up for vacancies as they become available. Our primary family shelter is in Providence.

(Photo right: After school at the Smith family apartment at Kingstown Crossings I.)


We have federal and state funding to support social services at Kingstown Crossings I. We have two full-time social workers on site.  All of the families have access to a case manager. Prior to moving in, the case manager does a family assessment, looking at five different areas of family life — social, mental health, physical health, education, and employment.  Together with the family, the case managers identify areas they want to work on. The case managers are like traffic controllers — they make referrals, provide some services directly, and connect families to other service providers. Kingstown Crossings I also has afterschool tutoring programs for kids and job-training, resume writing, and other educational programs provided on site by staff from our Providence office. A small number of units at Kingstown Crossing II will be designated as supportive, but we will continue to apply for grants so we can provide more. Even if residents haven't experienced homelessness, they are very low income and have service needs.

The residents are a mixture of very young parents, older parents, and multigenerational families. We tend to have larger families because of the three- and four-family units.  A lot of the families work, but the reality of families that have experienced homelessness is that they tend to be young and have younger children. If it's a single-parent household with preschool-aged children, the parent is less likely to be working.

Video: Click on the Start link to the right to meet the residents.

(Photo right: The Smith family at Kingstown Crossings I.)


Special Design Features

Michelle Wilcox is chief operating officer at Crossroads Rhode Island.

We went from two-story, townhouse-style military housing with bedrooms on the upper floors and living space on the ground floor to three-story houses that are more in keeping with the surrounding neighborhood.  The military uses the same blueprint for all of its housing.

Each building has two parts joined by an exterior stairway. Residents come up the stairs and turn left or right depending on the side of the building where they live. Each unit has three or four bedrooms and a small deck.

We worked hard to maintain the old-growth trees, so there's lots of green on the site. We were trying to create more of a community than we had previously. The main avenue was a kind of raceway so that kids who came out of their apartments were 20 feet from the street.  When they come out of their doors now, they are on green space. There are also play areas and a path where they can ride their bikes or where a mom can push a baby stroller. We have 200 kids living in this space, so this is a kid-friendly community. (Photo right: View of Kingstown Crossings I.)


We also put extra effort into making phase I a LEED gold-certified property. People have mixed feelings about the value of LEED, but our goal was to build a project that was energy efficient — which means money in the pockets of our residents.

The old military-style housing wasn't energy efficient. The cathedral ceilings were a nice idea when the housing was built, but the apartments were costly to heat. Kingstown Crossings is housing for formerly homeless people who are on tight budgets. The project pays for water and sewer, but the residents pay for heat and electricity. 

We actually compared the energy use of families living in the same-sized units in both the old and new housing, and it turns out that families are saving hundreds of dollars a month on their energy bills after moving to the new buildings. This has a very real impact on their quality of life.

(Photo right: The Kingstown Crossings I basketball court.)


Energy efficiency and LEED certification depend on the insulation and other materials used in construction. Another LEED factor is recycling waste rather than sending it to a landfill. The buildings have high-efficiency gas-powered heating systems and ceiling fans in the living and dining room areas. Our goal was to create units that stay as cool as possible in the summertime and as warm as possible in the wintertime.

The construction phase of the Kingstown Crossings project has been the easiest part of the process. Developers hardly ever get to say that because construction is where problems often occur. Construction was as smooth as one could hope for due in large part to the fact that we have a superb contractor — TRAC Builders — and architect — Kite Architects. Christine West, the principal at Kite Architects, has been tremendous. She was a central player in the development of Kingstown Crossings. We also worked with the Conservation Services Group, which was responsible for monitoring construction for LEED. A lot of work was done in the design phase to meet the LEED criteria. (Photo right: The Coughlin family at Kingstown Crossings I.)

FHLB Boston Housing Profiles July 2013


The Coughlin family.