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Monday, May 1, 2023

Rhode Island's Housing Crisis

Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) supports action on housing

By Jeanne Cola, LISC Rhode Island Executive Director 

In partnership with the Rhode Island Foundation and others, LISC Rhode Island was proud to support the development of an in-depth analysis of the housing crisis in Rhode Island. 

The environmental scan and analysis by the Boston Consulting Group assessed the overall need and available resources to address the emergency and need within the community. The resulting report identifies the state's biggest challenges, lays out suggestions, and encourages action. 

It's clear from the past year, and made more evident through this report, that we cannot afford to wait any longer to implement multiple strategies on a wide variety of initiatives. 

We need to walk and chew gum at the same time — actually, we need to run and chew. We need to advance housing production through our existing channels and partner networks, but we also need to eliminate barriers and urgently invest in new ways of doing things and get them done faster.

The report highlights the real struggle around the patchwork of policy governing Rhode Island's housing production. As a first step, we need to get behind the policy recommendations put forth by Speaker Shekarchi - they are all common sense recommendations that will begin to move the needle on several issues that slow down forward momentum. 

Additionally, the updated Low-Mod commission is working to get municipalities to consider a minimum of 10% of deed-restricted affordable housing and looking to add incentives for reaching the 10% goal. The language of the statute identifies 10% as a minimum consistent with local needs, yet local housing needs are far higher. 

There seems to be a "no growth" philosophy held by many of the municipalities in our State — we need to come to some understanding that enables a path forward. 

And we can't afford to lose any units that we already have. Existing repair programs are ineffective and onerous, with compliance challenges that strain both local government and homeowners. All funding options need to be deployed, and new ways of adding units need to be included. 

We're lucky to have received ARPA funding that has been earmarked for housing development, but even $250M will only scratch the surface of what is actually needed. We need all hands on deck to address this problem including support from corporations and from our colleges and universities. 

Rhode Island has not fully invested in the development of affordable housing for more than a decade, and we agree with RI Foundation president Neil Steinberg when he says: "This is at a point where we’ve got to make change. Otherwise, something is going to break.”

Download the Full Report Here