Bills developed based on work of ongoing House commission
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives' package of 10 bills to address the state’s housing crisis has been signed into law. The legislation was backed by House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Rep. June S. Speakman, chairwoman of the Special Legislative Commission to Study the Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act.
The bills aim to streamline development, provide more complete and timely information about housing, and help municipalities meet their affordable housing goals.
“Our state’s housing crisis developed over many years and the forces driving it are myriad and complicated. Similarly, addressing this issue is going to require deliberate, careful work, and it’s going to be an ongoing effort. Today we are pleased to make progress on many of the aspects of housing creation and access that our commission has identified, and we continue our commitment to meet our state’s housing challenges. I’m very grateful to the members of our housing commission, led by Rep. June Speakman, for the hard work, insight and consideration they’ve contributed to this effort over the last year, and that they will continue to provide as we work collaboratively on this critical issue into the future,” said House Speaker Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).
The legislation was developed based on the work of the House’s Low & Moderate Income Housing commission, which includes legislators, housing advocates, municipal officials and developers and has been meeting since July 2021 to help identify ways Rhode Island can meet its affordable housing needs. The bills are only the first pieces of legislation to be generated through the work of the commission, which is expected to continue its exploration of housing issues for at least another year.
“Our commission has heard from experts from across the policy spectrum, from planning officials to developers to advocates for housing and the environment. What we’ve learned is that, while we are facing a broad array of challenges including our governmental structures and the magnitude of the demand, we have the expertise in this state to develop equitable, sustainable solutions to our housing crisis. While we have much work ahead of us, I’m confident that with leadership, collaboration and flexibility, we can develop the safe, comfortable, affordable, environmentally sound housing that Rhode Islanders should have,” said Chairwoman Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol).
The bills have the support of housing agencies and advocates around the state.
“HousingWorks RI applauds Speaker Shekarchi and LMIH Commission Chairwoman Speakman for providing critical leadership and direction as our state tackles housing challenges. This package of legislation begins to address some of the local barriers preventing the development of more homes in our communities. Removing these barriers, in combination with significant investment of federal and state dollars, will go a long way to help us address this complex problem. These past few years have reminded us all of how critical it is to have a safe and affordable home. Housing advocates have long said that the path to economic opportunity begins at your front door,” said Brenda Clement, director of HousingWorks RI, which advances housing affordability by collecting, analyzing and communicating information about housing throughout the state.
Said Melina Lodge, who is executive director of the Housing Network of Rhode Island/ Community Housing Land Trust of Rhode Island and a member of the special legislative commission, “The Housing Network of Rhode Island and its member organizations greatly appreciate Speaker Shekarchi’s leadership in reconvening the LMIH Commission to better orient stakeholders to the current constraints in developing low and moderate income housing and to hear about strategies that could improve existing systems and processes. This package of housing bills directly responds to and addresses a number of the concerns and roadblocks that have been elevated during commission hearings and are necessary changes to increase the supply of affordable homes in Rhode Island and ensure that all Rhode Islanders have access to homes that are affordable to them in the community of their choice.”
The legislation represents the second package of housing bills backed by House leaders. Last year, the General Assembly enacted multiple proposals from the House’s package, including one that created a permanent stream of affordable housing funding, another that now prohibits housing discrimination against those who receive Section 8 or other housing assistance, and another establishing a housing leader within the Executive Office of Commerce. That position will be elevated to a cabinet-level position under one of the bills (2022-H 7940Aaa) in this year’s package. The Special Legislative Commission to Study the Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act was also created by one of last year’s housing bills, sponsored by Speaker Shekarchi.
Besides Chairwoman Speakman, the commission includes Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence), Rep. Michael W. Chippendale (R-Dist. 40, Foster, Glocester, Coventry), Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg, ONE Neighborhood Builders President and Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins, Grow Smart Rhode Island Executive Director Scott Wolf, Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation Executive Director Linda Weisinger, Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness Executive Director Caitlin Frumerie, Rhode Island Association of Realtors Government Affairs Director David Salvatore, Rita Danielle Steele, Esq. Steele Realty Consultants, Rhode Island Builders Vice President David Caldwell, Housing Network of Rhode Island/Community Housing Land Trust of Rhode Island Executive Director Melina Lodge, Rhode Island Housing Executive Director Carol Ventura, Robert Marshall of the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, Glocester Town Planner Karen Scott, Providence Department of Planning Director of Community Development Emily Freedman, Barrington Tax Assessor Kenneth Mallette, and Jongsung Kim of the Bryant University Department of Economics.
Descriptions of the bills, all of which have now been signed into law, are below:
2022-H 7949Aaa Rep. Speakman
2022-S 3046A Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence)