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Speaker Shekarchi and advocates call for investments in housing using APRA funds

“We know that not being able to afford a safe home impacts all members of a family unit, as well as the community,” said Representative Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket). “With the challenges that our state is facing, we need to ensure that we support our communities in many ways, and the first step is in being able to provide housing for them.”
Photo for Speaker Shekarchi and advocates call for investments in housing using APRA funds

Published on May 20, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

Housing advocates, community leaders, and state legislators, including Rhode Island Speaker of the House Joseph Shekarchi, gathered in the State House library on Thursday to call for increased investments that will support building, preserving, and removing barriers to accessing safe, healthy and affordable homes for Rhode Islanders. The event was organized by Homes RI, “a cross-sector coalition of organizations working together to increase and preserve the supply of safe, healthy and affordable homes throughout Rhode Island.”

Katie West is the Manager of Strategic Networks at the Housing Network of Rhode Island. She introduced the event and acted as emcee.

“Housing has been my top priority since becoming Speaker,” said Speaker Shekarchi (Democrat, District 23, Warwick). “This legislative session, I’ve introduced an 11-bill package of legislation to look at the myriad rules and regulations that make building more affordable housing a challenge, streamline efforts so that good work isn’t happening in a vacuum, and hold policy-makers accountable.”

 Rhode Island Senator Frank Lombardo III (Democrat, District 25, Johnston):

“Through the work of the LMI Commission [Low and Moderate Income Housing Act Commission], we have learned that Rhode Island needs to add multiple tools to our housing policy toolbox –from accessory dwelling units to multi-family homes to more flexible zoning costs– to help communities reach their 10 percent commitment, and most importantly, to ensure that every Rhode Islander has access to a safe, comfortable, affordable home,” said Representative June Speakman (Democrat, District 68, Bristol, Warren).

Speakers highlighted Homes RI’s comprehensive and community informed recommendations for increasing investments in affordable homes and housing stability using $500 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Governor Daniel McKee’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal currently includes an investment of $250 million in affordable homes and housing stabilization using ARPA funds – $29 million of which has already been approved by the General Assembly in January of this year as part of an amended FY22 budget.

“We know that not being able to afford a safe home impacts all members of a family unit, as well as the community,” said Representative Karen Alzate (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket), who chairs the Legislative Black and Latino Caucus. “With the challenges that our state is facing, we need to ensure that we support our communities in many ways, and the first step is in being able to provide housing for them.”

“The Housing Network of Rhode Island members have over 2,000 affordable units in our three-year development forecast and with adequate investments we can break ground and produce much needed affordable homes,” stated Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders. “We are prepared to do our part to meet the needs of low-income Rhode Islanders, provided a financial commitment that matches the scale of our housing challenges.”


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Ehren Hunt, of the Tri-County Community Action Agency:

Jessica Vega, of the West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation:

“In Rhode Island we have some excellent housing safety laws on the books, but we lack the investments and commitments needed to promote and enforce them,” said Devra Levy, Community Organizer for the Childhood Lead Action Project, elevating the need for increased funding to address aging homes and repair old infrastructure, including lead hazard remediation. “It is essential to provide the necessary resources for cities and towns to make sure State laws are followed and to ensure homeowners, landlords, and tenants are aware of their rights and responsibilities.”

“Safe, healthy, affordable homes are essential to Rhode Islanders’ wellbeing and prosperity. Over the last year, United Way of RI has received just over 109,000 calls to our 211 call center from Rhode Islanders across the state in need of housing assistance,” said Larry Warner, Chief Impact & Equity Officer of United Way Rhode Island. “Many households are finding themselves with nowhere to go. We are calling on our State leaders to maximize investments in affordable homes now to increase housing options in every community, specifically for our lowest income residents and communities of color.

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