Representatives from four of the only five Rhode Island communities that have met the state’s affordable housing mandate are urging the working group studying the education aid formula to consider making communities’ affordable housing level a factor in the distribution of education aid.
Rep. Lauren H. Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), Rep. Michael Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Rep. John M. Carnevale (D-Dist. 13, Providence, Johnston) and Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls) sent a letter to the co-chairpersons of the working group — which is poised to vote on its recommendations Thursday — beseeching the panel to consider shifting aid to communities with high concentrations of affordable housing, in large part because of correlations between low-income populations and students with higher education expenses.
State law requires that at least 10 percent of each city or town’s housing stock qualify as “affordable,” meaning they are subsidized and are under agreement to remain so. Of the state’s 39 municipalities, only Newport, Woonsocket, Providence, Central Falls and New Shoreham have met the requirement, which has been in place for over a decade.
The four representatives believe their communities deserve to be compensated for housing more low-income residents when other communities are failing to meet the affordable-housing mandate, and that the current funding formula, enacted in 2010, fails to account for the higher costs of educating greater numbers of students living in affordable housing.
“Our communities have met the state goal of 10 percent low income housing. As such, we are generally absorbing additional costs since it has been repeatedly determined that students who live in public housing perform worse in school than students who live in other types of housing, thus requiring additional interventions,” the group wrote in the letter sent last month to the the working group’s co-chairpersons, Elizabethe Burke Bryant and Donald R. Sweitzer.
The letter cites numerous studies linking affordable housing and low income to greater student need and costs.
The legislation that established the state education funding formula required periodic review to determine whether the formula warranted tweaking. Gov. Gina Raimondo appointed the working group in October to conduct the first such review, and the working group is scheduled to make recommendations Thursday.
Representative Morin, with Representatives Carson and Maldonado as cosponsors, has introduced legislation (2016-H 7108) that would enact such a change, giving municipalities that exceed the affordable housing goal a bump in their state education aid of a percentage equal to the percentage by which they exceeds the housing requirement. The group also introduced the legislation last year.