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Among the most daunting issues facing Rhode Island is affordable housing. Housing costs – home ownership and rental – continue to rise, and available single family and rental units are sometimes scarce and expensive.

Lack of affordable housing, according to all experts, negatively impacts our society from homeless to the economy. 

We wanted to know how each of the gubernatorial candidates view affordable housing, and their plans to address the issue. We looked at their websites, and what they’ve said publicly. We have only tried to include the highlights of each plan. To see the candidates’ full programs, visit their respective campaign websites. 

Candidates are listed in no particular order. Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus does not specifically address housing on her website.

Here’s what we found.

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea

(From her website)

Why This Matters

Housing affordability is fast becoming an issue in many areas of our country, but Rhode Island is uniquely placed to be the leader and first to solve this problem. In my vision for our state, we not only build more housing that is sustainable and maximize our land use, we become the provider to our neighboring states of housing developers and contractors.

For decades, we made it difficult to build homes – especially family homes. Regulations, permits, fees and bureaucratic processes are at the heart of what we need to tackle if we are to increase the number of homes built. We cannot fund our way out of this problem – we need to fundamentally change the way we plan for and build housing in our state.

Main Priorities

  • Consistently fund the development of supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness and those who require ongoing behavioral health services.
  • Appoint a Secretary of Housing and Community Development who reports to the Governor and oversees a new coordinating agency of government. I will take an active, leading role, working with the General Assembly and municipalities, in coordinating housing policy and production to tangibly address the issue.
  • Work with state agencies, municipalities, nonprofit and for-profit home builders on a statewide process that simplifies and expedites the building of homes. Uncertainty and delays in the building process leads to increased costs. We can streamline permitting while ensuring that we build a diversity of home types and incentivize the building of energy-efficient homes.
  • Implement programs that incentivize the modernizing of multi-family properties. Work with municipalities to hold landlords accountable for properties that are not being maintained to code.
  • Create incentives that promote energy efficient practices in new home construction of both market rate and government subsidized housing.
  • Address expiring deed restrictions so affordable homes stay affordable.
  • Work with cities and towns to stabilize rising property tax rates.

A Once in a Lifetime Investment

The infusion of funds provided by the Biden Administration gives Rhode Island an opportunity to truly provide solutions to the problems that have faced our housing sector for generations. The goal of finding a home for all Rhode Islanders requires that we must get this right.

We will strategically look at incentives to address municipal concerns that building family homes leads to a rise in property taxes. In doing this, we will reward our towns and cities with additional state funding for education and provide them with assistance to upgrade and increase their outdated sewer systems, water services, and other town financial responsibilities.

Rhode Island towns can then upgrade services to modernize and prepare for our future. This alleviates the burdens that additional growth puts on Rhode Island municipalities. Working with Rhode Island towns and cities in this way allows them to incorporate historic preservation and town character into growth plans that anticipate the future – shifting to renewable energy and incorporating greater access to broadband.

Helena Buonanno Foulkes

(From her website)

Housing costs are out of control. Every day I talk to Rhode Islanders who have to stretch their budgets just to put a roof over their head.

We didn’t get here overnight. Inflation is making an already bad situation worse, but decades of inaction got us to this point. In some ways, our housing crisis is a simple supply and demand issue. We are short more than 20,000 housing units statewide, which causes prices to rise. Solutions have been available, but we’ve failed to take advantage of them. As it stands, Rhode Island builds fewer homes per capita each year than any other state.

…Getting back on track will take time, but there is plenty the next Governor can—and should— do right away to help Rhode Islanders afford to rent or own a home. 

I’m proposing eight action steps to create more housing and lower costs, including:
 

  • Launching an aggressive, community-focused outreach campaign to ensure that information about state and federal housing programs gets to Rhode Islanders in every corner of our state and from all backgrounds;
     
  • Funding a state Affordable Housing Tax Credit tied to the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC);
     
  • Creating a new tax credit for Rhode Islanders living in multi-family housing;
     
  • Encouraging municipalities to allow Accessory Dwelling Units for rental use;
     
  • Streamlining and expediting permitting to speed up the development and construction process of affordable housing projects;
     
  • Allowing single-family homes built before 1980 to be converted into multi-family homes within the same structure;
     
  • Adding $160 million to the Housing Production Fund; and
     
  • Encouraging the use of brownfields properties for affordable housing development.
     

​​ Luis Daniel Munoz

(From his website)

Invest in Affordable & Low-Income Housing

  • Affordable housing has become a relative term, which is why we must stress the need for low-income housing as well. 
  • Advocate for municipality-specific affordable and low-income housing line items in state budget. 
  • Better support municipalities who exceed the minimum requirements for affordable housing by providing more direct support for development projects. Work with Executive Office of Health and Human Services to ensure that families residing in other municipalities have an opportunity to access other parts of the state through an affordable and low-income housing placement program. 

Love thy neighbor! Stopping Gentrification!

  • Institutions such as, Brown University, continue to play a part in gentrifying communities, while doing little to contribute to the tax base or service/programs that would strengthen historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities.

Rent Relief Support for Rhode Islanders

  • Invest $5M in community organizations supporting community driven rent relief support clinics 
  • Modify engagement contracts to ensure that funds are deployed more effectively by industry partners 

Former Secretary of State Matt Brown

(Brown’s website references the program as outlined on the Rhode Island Political Cooperative site))

Affordable Housing for All

• Ensure that all working families in Rhode Island can afford housing

• Extend the eviction moratorium throughout the pandemic

• Implement a utility shutoff moratorium throughout the pandemic

• Build 10,000 green affordable homes for working families

• Implement statewide rent control to ensure that rent increases do not exceed 4% annually

Governor Dan McKee

(He addressed affordable housing in his state of the state address in January. What follows is from a press release issued by his office following the address.) 

In his State of the State Address tonight, Governor Dan McKee rolled out a historic housing proposal, including calling for the largest share of American Rescue Plan Act’s State Fiscal Recovery Funds, a quarter of a billion dollars, to be invested in housing and homelessness assistance.

The Governor’s housing proposal includes:

Investing in Development 

  • An investment of $90 million in project financing to create and preserve approximately 1,500 affordable housing units for households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income (approximately $63,000 for a three-person household in most parts of the state).
  • Recommends establishing a $25 million grant program for the acquisition of properties to be redeveloped into affordable and supportive housing, as well as allocating $10 million to increase developers’ ability to get projects underway.
  • Using $20 million to support workforce housing for Rhode Island families.
  • Invest in critical home repairs in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, by making available $25 million to redevelop these properties for the express purpose of creating housing and community/commercial spaces that satisfy community needs, as well as supporting critical home repairs.

Down Payment Assistance

  • Proposes an allocation of $50 million to provide $17,500 in down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers.

Homelessness Assistance

  • Calls for spending $21.5 million to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness or housing instability. The funding supports both operating subsidies for extremely low-income housing units and services for people transitioning from homelessness to housing, including individuals transitioning out of the Adult Correctional Institutions.
  • The plan also includes $5 million to increase shelter capacity for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

Republican candidate Ray Herrera

(From his website)

It’s clear we need to build more apartment complexes. with the new infrastructure bill, they plan on spending 6 billion dollars over the next 6 years. for a system Rhode Islanders rarely use. we could use that money over the next 6 years to build complexes. both above ground and below. to address the extreme need for affordable housing. the housing market has become a business to exploit the working class. which needs to be fixed! I believe no one should own more than two houses (summer-winter). basic needs of humanity should not be monopolized. to further explain the building below ground. It will lower the cost of heating. because the temperature stays a consistent 70 degrees. we would also still be able to plant full trees above the complex. as trees only need 4-8 feet of depth in the soil to grow. to help produce more oxygen. structures and pavement, eliminate areas that can produce oxygen and consume carbon. by not allowing plant life to grow.

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.