The House of Representatives today passed legislation (2023-H 6058A) sponsored by Rep. Marvin L. Abney, Chairman of the House Finance Committee, which would increase the percentage set aside for affordable units in qualifying projects and, in turn, increase the number of allowable units per acre for all housing projects subject to inclusionary zoning.
The bill is part of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) 14-bill package of legislation to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis.
Inclusionary zoning is the practice of ensuring that housing projects proceed with a mix of residents representing different economic backgrounds and circumstances. For instance, inclusionary zoning requires a certain percentage of units in new developments be reserved for low- or moderate-income individuals and households.
“Our state cannot succeed if our residents and workers cannot afford to live here, it’s as simple as that. This legislation will incentivize further and expanded development of low- and moderate-income housing that is desperately needed in Rhode Island so that everyone is able to live, work and raise their families in our state. This crucial change in how we develop affordable housing is a long time coming and I applaud Speaker Shekarchi for his focus on correcting the growing and concerning housing crisis,” said Chairman Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown).
As of January 2023, the RI Realtors Association reported the median priced single family home was $391,375, which to afford, a household would require an annual household income of approximately $110,000. However, median annual household income in Rhode Island is only $67,167. As Chairman Abney points out, a single working mother with two children and earning $47,000 would make less than 60 percent of the area median income and would be considered a moderate-income household. That family would be unable to purchase a home in any of the state’s 39 cities and towns.
This legislation would allow developers to build more units per acre if a certain percentage of those units are set aside for low- and moderate-income housing. The bill does this by amending the inclusionary zoning statute to requiring 25 percent of units be affordable in order to qualify for inclusionary zoning, and allows a density bonus as well as other incentives for the development of much-needed affordable housing. The bill also further disincentivizes the payment of fees in lieu of the construction of affordable housing by making such projects ineligible for density bonuses and administrative review.
The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.