With housing stock currently low and homes often selling for far more than asking price, tenants on Aquidneck Island say they are being left behind when it comes to moving or renewing their leases.
Over the past few months, Middletown residents Shane and Chantelle Johnson have been trying to find a rental home on Aquidneck Island, but to no avail.
Graduated from Middletown High School in 2007, Shane lost his mother suddenly in November 2019 and his father passed away from a long illness several years ago. He and his sister were bequeathed by will to their parents’ house, a house his father built, but decided to sell it because Shane said he did not have the income to buy the part of it. his sister’s house.
The Johnsons said they hoped to buy land on Aquidneck Island and build their own home within the next two years, so they decided to look for a place to stay in the meantime. But the process of finding a rental has been frustrating.
“ I want my kids to grow up here too ”
Over the past five years, Shane said he has noticed a huge difference in the rental market on Aquidneck Island.
âIn the past, I have found places in a month, or two months maximum, and as we are looking now, it is almost impossible,â he said. “You find yourself in dead ends or in a battle between six or seven people for one place.”
They also ran into the issue of delisting a listing, as the rent was increased from $ 500 to $ 1,000, and several parties were fighting over a property. âI think they’re just running away, like, people who are desperate,â he said.
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Shane said growing up on Aquidneck Island was an amazing experience and that he wanted his children to grow up with the same quality of life as him. His wife Chantelle couldn’t agree more.
The frustration of not being able to find housing is devastating, she said.
âI have a feeling that if we can’t find accommodation on the island, it will really kill my husband, because that’s where he’s from. These are its roots. This is where his family raised him. This is her home, âshe said. mentionned. “He has lost both parents. He is only 29 years old. The island is literally all he has left, like this connection to his family and losing it would kill him.”
And over the years, Chantelle has said that Aquidneck Island has also become her home.
âI remember the first time I came here and visited it. I fell in love with the island and said, ‘I want to live here forever.’ I don’t want to live anywhere else. This is my home and so it became my home very quickly too, âshe said.
The Johnson’s entire life is on Aquidneck Island, and they don’t want to leave.
Lack of inventory means fewer rental properties
Newport real estate agent Kathryn Leonard said several issues led to what she calls “the perfect storm.”
âPart of it is COVID hit and people from other states – New York, Massachusetts, other places – decided they were going to get out of the big city and come and use their own homes, because they felt more secure with their families, âLeonard says. “So that’s one element that eliminated many rentals that would have been seasonal rentals, like winter homes.”
Another part of the problem in finding long term rentals on Aquidneck Island currently is so little inventory. Leonard said part of the lack of rental inventory is also due to the pandemic, as people use their own homes, so there are fewer homes for sale.
âThen there’s the trend that people who can have big houses want smaller and bigger houses, so someone who might have had a big, big house in Boston or New York, now a lot. of them may say, ‘Wait a minute. I’d rather have a little place in Newport, a little place to ski in the Midwest, instead of a big giant house to run, and that has dried up a bit more inventory, âshe said.
When Leonard sees young people who can’t qualify for a home loan and are leaving Aquidneck Island because they don’t have good jobs, it makes her sad. But at the same time, she said she realizes that the government cannot control everything.
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“I think the problem is probably the housing of the workers. It is happening all over the country,” she said. “It’s just not that area. You have families who want to live somewhere, really live somewhere, and unfortunately they don’t earn enough to qualify for a loan and it’s difficult for them.”
As a real estate agent and a member of Newport City Council, it makes her feel bad, but Leonard said people who sell homes can’t be blamed for doing what the market dictates.
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âI think you can travel the country and find the same result,â she said. “We can’t build houses where there is no land. You can’t tell others that they should sell their houses for less. It’s a quagmire in a lot Some parts of the country are less expensive to live than this region here, and that has a lot to do with education, wages and what people earn. “
Residents can’t keep up with rising rents
In 1996, North Providence resident Michael Johnson moved to Newport for his work with the Beechwood Theater Company at the Beechwood Mansion. He stayed with the theater company for two seasons, long enough for him to fall in love with Newport, a place he stayed for almost 20 years.
Things were going well for Michael, who ended up touring with two Broadway shows. He was with The Newport Playhouse for 20 years and also works in the restaurant industry as a chef.
âI’m a Rhode Islander but a North Rhode Islander so a hike in Newport was a daylong adventure where you pack a lunch, cross the Jamestown Bridge and hope you get there,â he said. -he declares. “But after spending some time here, I fell in love with Newport and decided it was the place I wanted to set up, and I’ve always made Newport home since 1996.”
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Now Michael stays awake at night thinking he might not be able to stay in town, and that bothers him. Michael said Newport was his home. This is where his friends are. This is the place where he can go around town on his little scooter and see friends hanging out on Broadway.
âI thought about buying a house here and it’s an impossibility for me at this point, so renting is really where I am,â he said. âAs Airbnbs moves in and people sometimes think they can make an income with an empty house, it forces people like me – I’ve worked in the restaurant business here, I’ve worked in the restaurant business here. ‘theater industry here, and it scares me that I might not be able to stay here. “
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The COVID pandemic has played a role in the struggles that Michael and her husband have been experiencing for the past two years. Before the pandemic, they stayed in a winter rental, then ended up renting a long-term property off Broadway for $ 1,500 a month plus utilities.
Michael, who was a restaurant manager, said he and her husband saved $ 15,000, but with the work stalled, they ate pretty quickly and didn’t really have the money to move.
But their landlord is considering raising the rent on the apartment they are currently renting and they can’t necessarily afford to keep it. âPeople are jostling each other. I know people with top notch credit who can’t get apartments,â he said.
Bethany Brunelle can be reached at [email protected] 907-575-8528 or @bethanyfreuden1 on Twitter, Insta: bethanyfreudenthal, TikTok: thehijabicrimereporter, Muckrack: https://muckrack.com/bethany-freudenthal