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6/18/2024 Speaker Shekarchi announces passage of 14 housing bills
STATE HOUSE – House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi announced 14 bills in his package of legislation regarding housing issues have passed the General Assembly. This marks his fourth comprehensive suite of housing bills since becoming Speaker in 2021.

The bills passed continue Speaker Shekarchi’s efforts to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis and expand upon initiatives outlined in his previous legislative efforts.

“I want Rhode Island to be a state where families can have a good life and raise their children, where young people can live near their parents and hometowns, and where seniors can age in place with dignity,” said Speaker Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). “Unfortunately, Rhode Island does not have enough housing supply to keep up with demand. Too many years of being dead last in the country for new housing permits have caught up with us.

“Our housing and homelessness crisis has been decades in the making and will take a long-term, sustained effort to fix. Although we’ve already introduced and passed three packages of housing legislation – approximately 30 bills – we still have a great deal of work left,” continued Speaker Shekarchi. “I am committed to seeing this through until all Rhode Islanders have a good, safe home. I am thankful to everyone who has partnered with me to raise the dialogue and develop viable solutions to create more housing.”

Much of the legislation stems from testimony and discussions of the Special Legislative Commission to Study Affordable Housing and Special Legislative Commission to Study the Entire Area of Land Use, which have been meeting regularly since July 2022 to address ways Rhode Island can meet its affordable housing needs in a manner that is sustainable and equitable.

Here are the bills passed by the General Assembly:
  • 2024-H 7062A, 2024-S 2998A sponsored by Rep. June S. Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol) and Sen. Victoria Gu (D-Dist. 38, Westerly, Charlestown, South Kingstown), this legislation would provide homeowners statewide the right to develop a single accessory dwelling unit (ADU) on an owner-occupied property to accommodate a disabled family member, or within the existing footprint of their structures or on any lot larger than 20,000 square feet, provided that the ADU’s design satisfies building code, size limits and infrastructure requirements.
  • 2024-H 7980Aaa, 2024-S 2989A, sponsored by Speaker Shekarchi and Sen. David P. Tikoian (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Lincoln), this bill allows, by right, manufactured homes constructed in accordance with HUD Regulations as an alternative option to stick-built homes where single- family housing is allowed.    
  • 2024-H 7979, 2024-S 2991, sponsored by Speaker Shekarchi and Sen. John Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick), is enabling legislation to create a pilot program giving municipalities the authority to combine zoning and planning boards into one so long as the agenda reflects what authority an application is being heard under. This would allow a more expedited process or to allow municipalities who cannot get members to fill their boards to utilize one board for both. It does not impact local appointment of members.
  • 2024-H 7983B, 2024-S 2990A, sponsored by Rep. Cherie Cruz (D-Dist. 58, Pawtucket) and Sen. Frank A. Ciccone (D-Dist. 7, Providence, Johnston), codifies the existing structure of the State Building Code Office, and also clarifies the role of the State Building Code Commissioner. It modifies statutory language to ensure a uniform interpretation and enforcement of the building code statewide. It also would establish a building code education and training unit with input from the RI League of Cities and Towns to educate building officials and inspectors statewide.
  • 2024-H 7978A, 2024-S 3036A, sponsored by Speaker Shekarchi and Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield), is legislation for municipalities to use electronic permitting for building permits. The legislation builds upon the platform established and created by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, which is currently in use and required for building permits for applications and submissions for planning and zoning. The legislation would provide greater transparency and efficiency, streamlines processes and makes timelines and submission requirements more clear. It utilizes an existing state database to be adapted to fit these applications.
  • 2024-H 7977A, sponsored by Speaker Shekarchi, establishes an 11-member Special Legislative Commission to study the ability of the Rhode Island educational system to offer degrees or certificates to provide a supply/pipeline of planners, planning technicians and staff, and report back to the General Assembly by January 1, 2025. Its purpose is to address a shortage of planning professionals in the state and the lack of a local educational program to establish a pipeline for these jobs.
  • 2024-H 7986Aaa, 2024-S 2992A, sponsored by Representative José F. Batista (D-Dist. 12, Providence) and Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence), amends the existing statute for abandoned properties to require a municipal inventory, with yearly updating, and clarifies the process regarding the required abatement of abandoned properties. Additionally, in the case of nuisance properties that are in receivership, the bill enables judges to give priority to buyers who are willing to add deed restrictions that designate the property as low- or moderate-income housing or owner-occupied housing, or make other commitments to keep it affordable.
  • 2024-H 7949Aaa, 2024-S 3001A, sponsored by Rep. Robert E. Craven, Sr. (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown) and Sen. Matthew L. LaMountain  (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston), would make amendments and clarifications to various provisions relative to subdivision of land review, review stages, special provisions related to development, and the procedures for approvals from various permitting authorities. It is based upon feedback from municipalities and the RI American Planners Association.
  • 2024-H 7948A, 2024-S 2999A, sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Solomon, Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Sen. Jacob Bissaillon (D-Dist. 1, Providence), provides amendments to the requirements of the inclusionary zoning law for affordable housing development to incorporate feedback from the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Planning Association. Inclusionary zoning is an optional tool for municipalities to require the provision of affordable units in conjunction with the development of market rate units. This legislation does not alter municipal approval requirements.
  • 2024-H 7982, 2024-S 2994, sponsored by Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth) and Sen. Mark P. McKenney (D-Dist. 30, Warwick), amends provisions relative to the application of zoning ordinances pertaining to wetland buffers to projects for development, redevelopment, construction or rehabilitation. It makes clear that there can be no local regulation of coastal wetlands and freshwater wetlands beyond the requirements of the state agency requirements. The legislation does not take away any responsibility from the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) or the Department of Environmental Management (DEM).
  • 2024-H 7950A, 2024-S 3000A, sponsored by Rep. Leonela Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), requires cities/towns to allow at least three disclosed types of financial security (such as surety bonds, letters of credit or cash) provided by developers on projects that include public improvements. Allowing varying types of financial options ensures that developers can choose the method that best suits their circumstances, which encourages development. Municipalities would not be able to limit the bond to one specific type, but still retain their ability to require bonds and improvement guarantees for public improvements.
  • 2024-H 7951A, 2024-S 2988A, sponsored by Rep. Craven and Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston), would clarify the circumstances under which a municipality can limit accepting and hearing development applications and limit building permits related to the development of housing, and specifies the timeframes in which those limitations can be in place.
  • 2024-H 7984Aaa, 2024-S 2993aa, sponsored by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown) and Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton), would allow municipalities to count mobile home units as affordable housing if they meet certain requirements, including that they are permanent housing. Mobile homes could be applied toward the goal of 10% of a municipality’s housing stock to be low- and moderate-income housing, with ½ credit per qualifying mobile home.
  • 2024-H 7985A, 2024-S 2995A, sponsored by Rep. Tina L. Spears (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, Sout​h​​ Kingstown, New Shoreham, W​ester​​ly​​) and Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence), would instruct the Department of Administration to develop, with input from the League of Cities and Towns, a report on the creation of a comprehensive and integrated statewide Geographic Information System (GIS). This report would evaluate the cost, staff, organizational changes and data security requirements needed to establish and maintain the platform, in addition to the types of data that would be needed from agencies and local governments to maintain the system. The report would be delivered to General Assembly Leadership and the secretary of housing by Jan. 31, 2025.

For more information, contact:
Emily Martineau, Deputy Director of Communications for the Office of the Speaker
State House Room 323
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2466