By Sen. Meghan Kallman and Rep. June Speakman
Sen. Meghan Kallman, D-Pawtucket, and Rep. June Speakman, D-Warren, were the sponsors of legislation to establish a dedicated stream of funding for affordable housing in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island is facing a housing emergency. We have been for years. And now we have an extraordinary opportunity to address it. With $1.1 billion in federal stimulus funding available for Rhode Island to invest in catalytic solutions, we unite with local housing advocates to call for the investment of $500 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds to help develop the housing we need.
National data show that Rhode Island is short nearly 22,000 homes for low-income renters. Only three of our 39 cities and towns have rentals that a minimum-wage worker can afford — if they work 80 hours a week. Buying a home is out of reach as well. The Rhode Island Association of Realtors reports the median sales price for a single-family house here recently reached a new peak of $390,000 — that’s 17.1% higher than a year ago.
Federal emergency rental assistance has afforded a safety net for many tenants who are vulnerable to eviction. However, rental assistance is designed primarily to help those who already have homes. And there simply are not enough units. As The Providence Journal reported Sept. 26 (“Locked Out,” News), Rhode Island is near the bottom nationally for per capita new housing units permitted every year from 2004 through 2020. With scant development and nearly a 100% rental occupancy rate, Rhode Islanders who are displaced from housing often have nowhere to go.