Coalition presents affordable housing plan that approaches the scale of the problem“Over half of Rhode Island renters are cost burdened by housing and Black and Latinx Rhode Islanders disproportionately bear that burden,” said Harrison Tuttle, Executive Director at BLM RI PAC. “We have an unprecedented amount of money coming in from the federal government. I hope Governor McKee does not squander his chance to make housing truly affordable for every Rhode Islander.”
Published on June 28, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist
For the past several weeks UpriseRI has been posing some variation of the question, “Is there a plan in the works that approaches the scale of the affordable housing crisis in Rhode Island?” and the answer, from United States Senator Jack Reed, Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee and Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi has been more or less the same – No.
On Monday, BLM RI PAC, RI Political Co-op, Sunrise Providence, Sunrise RI Youth, Rebuild Woonsocket, and Renew RI released a co-authored plan to address Rhode Island’s dire housing crisis by building 10,000 new units of green, affordable housing. The plan would combine $700 million of the $1.7 billion coming from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with state bonds, new general revenue streams, and existing federal grants to create a $2.5 billion investment over the next eight years. The housing would be built under collectively bargained Project Labor Agreements. The ARPA funding will likely be allocated in a special legislative session after the current fiscal year’s budget is finalized.
The plan, says the coalition in. a press release,” stands in stark contrast to both Governor McKee and Speaker Shekarchi’s underwhelming proposals for a permanent funding stream for affordable and workforce housing which are projected to generate just $5.7 and $4 million per year respectively.”
At the opening of a 42 unit affordable housing project in Smithfield Rhode Island Monday morning, Senator Reed noted that “according to the the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Rhode Island is in need of more than 20,000 rental homes that are affordable.”
After the ceremony UpriseRI pointed out to Senator Reed and Representative David Cicilline that at Rhode Island’s present rate of building affordable housing, it will take between 250 and 500 years to get anywhere near 20,000 units of affordable housing. Senator Reed pivoted to promoting the American Jobs Plan which contains funding, as of now, $243 billion dollars for construction.
“This is an opportunity like never before,” said Harrison Tuttle, Executive Director at BLM RI PAC. “Over half of Rhode Island renters are cost burdened by housing and Black and Latinx Rhode Islanders disproportionately bear that burden. We have an unprecedented amount of money coming in from the federal government. I hope Governor McKee does not squander his chance to make housing truly affordable for every Rhode Islander.”
The plan put forth by the coalition gets ahead of the American Jobs Plan, treating the issue as the emergency it is.
“The Governor and the Speaker’s funding proposals are insulting to the hundreds of thousands of Rhode Islanders who struggle to pay their rent or their mortgage,” said Jennifer Rourke, Co-Chair of the RI Political Co-op. “I hope they reconsider and decide to adopt this comprehensive plan. But if they don’t, the Rhode Island Political Cooperative will make sure every voter in the state knows that we had the money to solve this crisis and yet our elected officials chose not to.”
“Our communities need this investment in affordable housing,” said Monica Huertas, Co-Chair of Renew RI. “It’s not enough to throw us crumbs and say that you did something. This coalition’s proposal would truly address Rhode Island’s affordable housing crisis. Governor McKee and the leadership of the Rhode Island General Assembly must adopt it.”
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