Legislative package, $250 million termed ‘historic investment’ in housing

Posted 9/9/22


It made perfect sense that the Meadowbrook Terrace housing complex was the site for an event last Thursday to highlight General Assembly passage of ten housing bills and allocation …

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Legislative package, $250 million termed ‘historic investment’ in housing



It made perfect sense that the Meadowbrook Terrace housing complex was the site for an event last Thursday to highlight General Assembly passage of ten housing bills and allocation of $250 million in a range of programs aimed at improving housing. After all, Meadowbrook is a Warwick Housing Authority project and the complex is located in Warwick where House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi is facing Democratic primary. For that matter, it didn’t hurt either Gov. Dan McKee or Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos who likewise face Democratic challengers in their quest for reelection.

Apart from the political timing of the announcement and the venue, both Shekarchi and Matos made no slight of the challenges of providing affordable housing in all of Rhode Island’s cities and towns nor the hard work that went into the legislation. 

“It doesn’t happen by accident,” Shekarchi said highlighting the role of the state’s Congressional delegation and Senator Jack Reed, in particular, in securing funding for housing. But Shekarchi added more than money is needed to address the housing crisis. It is also changing the direction of housing and attitudes.

“This is not an easy issue; it is not a popular issue; it is classic NIMBYism,” he said.

“Addressing Rhode Islanders’ housing needs is one of my highest priorities,” Shekarchi said in a statement. “I am very grateful for the cooperative effort that has brought us here to highlight our $250 million investment in a range of efforts to improve the availability and affordability of housing. This funding will enable us to fulfill a wide range of goals, from creating desperately needed housing for the homeless to helping homebuyers with down payments. In addition, we passed 10 housing bills to address the housing crisis from a variety of angles, including my own bill to elevate the issue by establishing a state Housing Department.”

Matos likewise alluded to the social economic perils of introducing affordable housing to some communities, saying, “We want to make sure we don’t displace the existing community.” The legislation provides for the construction of affordable housing in every city and town in the state, she said. Of particular concern to her is “to make sure we have housing for those with children.”

McKee, who signed legislation at the event, spoke of the need for housing and touched on the collaborative efforts of housing advocates. He said he sees the $250 million as being “leveraged” into a billion dollars for housing programs.

McKee, who proposed a $250 million investment in housing in his State of the State Address, said in a statement, ““Thanks to a collaborative partnership with the Speaker, Senate President and the General Assembly, we are now executing on that proposal. This historic investment will not only create and preserve thousands of units of housing but it will also transform blighted properties, strengthen communities and create good-paying construction jobs in the process. Thank you to all who have gotten us to today — now let’s get to work building this housing.“

Specifically, the legislation allocates $155 million towards housing production; $30 million for down payment assistance to help prospective homebuyers struggling with rising prices; $25 million for community revitalization and home repairs; $36.5 million towards addressing homelessness; and $3.5 million to create a statewide housing plan and increase through a newly created Department of Housing.

As outlined the funding will: 

  • Create new housing across income levels that supports population growth and encourages equitable growth.
  • Stabilize households that are at risk of involuntary displacement and/or homelessness.
  • Promote supportive and accessible housing that includes social services, including expanding options for seniors, persons with disabilities, and persons experiencing homelessness.
  • Improve the quality and safety of the existing housing stock.

During Thursday’s event, Governor McKee signed into law legislation (2022-H 7949Aaa , 2022-S 3046A) sponsored by Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol) and Senator Kallman to streamline the comprehensive permitting and appeals process in regard to low- and moderate-income housing, and add two additional voting members to the state housing appeals board. Governor McKee also signed legislation (2022-H 7940Aaa, 2022-S 3058) sponsored by Speaker Shekarchi and Senator Kallman to officially establish a statewide Department of Housing within the executive branch of state government, and create the cabinet-level position of Secretary of Housing. With the enactment of this legislation, Josh Saal has been appointed as Rhode Island’s first Secretary of Housing.

Saal said the event was “nothing short of historic” and that the legislation and $250 million housing investment will “change the future of our state” prodding new housing across all income lines. Also, he said the measures will ensure people can afford to stay in their homes and address the cost of home heating oil, natural gas and electricity.

“These federal funds represent an exciting opportunity to make the kinds of long-term and strategic investments in housing that will move Rhode Island forward. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to put these resources to work expanding the supply of affordable and permanent supportive housing in the state,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director, Rhode Island Housing, in a statement.

legislation, historic investment


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