• Newport's workforce housing is shrinking, but a study is underway to address the issue

    Newport's workforce housing is shrinking, but a study is underway to address the issue

    Savana Dunning
    Newport Daily News

    NEWPORT — As the availability of workforce housing for residents in Newport and Bristol counties continues to shrink, the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce has started studying ways to address the issue for years to come.

    "We were able to put together a proposal that was funded by the van Beuren Foundation to take a look at workforce housing and develop a plan," said Erin Donovan-Boyle, executive director of the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce. "How to address some of these workforce housing shortages that we’re seeing particularly in our region, but it is certainly an issue throughout the state."

    Connect Greater Newport, the economic development research arm of the Chamber of Commerce, received a $71,000 grant from the Van Beuren Foundation and $10,000 from BankNewport in February to study the gaps in available housing for Newport’s workforce and develop a plan to predict and address those gaps for 5-10 years in the future.

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    The chamber is currently in the data collection phase of the project and recently released a survey on workforce housing to member businesses.

    The goal of the survey is to gauge greater Newport County businesses’ plans for their employees in the future, how many people they expect to hire and what they anticipate paying them, to better understand what the needs for housing will be.

    “We’re taking a bit of a different approach than other more traditional annual reports that come out about housing affordability because we’re not just looking at low to moderate income. We’re looking at the workforce housing category, which is considered to be around 80 to 120% of the median income,” Donovan-Boyle said. “We’re looking at mid-level managers, we’re looking at teachers, nurses, even police officers, firemen, all of those types of individuals who fall into that salary range.”

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    The median annual income for households in Newport County is estimated to be about $84,282, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, which makes the salary range for households identified as “workforce housing” to be between $67,425 and $101,138. 

    The survey is just one part of the larger report the chamber is compiling, which it hopes to release by the end of this year. Donovan-Boyle said the chamber is also looking into how zoning laws impact workforce housing availability and trying to assess what housing stock is already available. The chamber plans to release a more official announcement of the project in the coming months. 

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