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Governor McKee suggests affordable housing crisis bigger than federal funds can handle

“The problem is large, right?” answered Governor Daniel McKee. “I don’t know whether there is enough money in the ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds if you spend every dollar of it, to actually satisfy that problem.”
Photo for Governor McKee suggests affordable housing crisis bigger than federal funds can handle

Published on June 17, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

Rhode Island Governor Daniel McKee said at a press conference on Thursday that he doesn’t believe that there is enough money in the American Rescue Plan Act to match the affordable housing needs in Rhode Island. Governor McKee was responding to a question from UpriseRI.

“Governor, the lack of affordable housing in Rhode Island means that even people with housing vouchers are having trouble finding places to rent,” noted UpriseRI. “Out of the 89 vouchers issued this year, so far only 35 people have been able to use them. And that’s out of 225 people who have applied, and the 1500 people currently unhoused ahead of the eviction moratorium being lifted at the end of the month. On Tuesday, Senator Jack Reed suggested that Federal CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act dollars be used to deal with the housing crisis, prioritizing low income housing. What are your thoughts on that?”

“I agree,” said Governor McKee. “And we are working with the General Assembly about using some of the CARES Act dollars. I happen to be feeling as though we should do it sooner rather than later. I’m not sure when the General Assembly is going to pick it up with this, but I would expect sometime this summer or the fall.”

“Do you expect the money to be equal to the size of the problem, right now, as it exists and as it may increase?” asked UpriseRI as a follow up.

“The problem is large, right?” answered Governor McKee. “I don’t know whether there is enough money in the ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funds if you spend every dollar of it, to actually satisfy that problem.”

Rhode Island received about $1.6 billion in American Rescue Plan Act money and $1.25 billion in CARES Act dollars.

Governor McKee stressed that three things have been done towards helping to alleviate the affordable housing crisis:

  1. The public approved the housing bond;
  2. The Governor and the General Assembly have put a line item in the budget for affordable housing
  3. Some American Resue Plan Act dollars will be devoted to affordable housing.

The Governor also expressed that the state has programs that will keep people in their homes in the form of rental and mortgage assistance. But so far, out of the $200 million available, only about $1 million has been paid out. The Governor believes the reason for the low response to the program is that people are unaware of it. “I think we need to invest in some paid media till people can know what is happening and what is available to them,” said Governor McKee.

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