Taunton Avenue site. Photo by Stephen Ide-ONE Neighborhood Builders

The site includes a vacant building and land for the construction of two more that will be converted
into 160 housing units as part of the Taunton Avenue Collaborative project in East Providence.
(Photo by Stephen Ide/ONE Neighborhood Builders)

By Kevin Andrade
Rhode Island Current

PROVIDENCE — Two Democratic East Providence legislators introduced bills Tuesday, May 16, 2023, seeking state funding for a plan to turn a blighted and vacant three-acre property in East Providence into a 160-unit affordable housing complex.

The joint resolution, numbered H6297 in the House and S985 in the Senate, introduced by Sen. Valarie Lawson and House Majority Whip Rep. Katherine Kazarian would appropriate $28 million to Taunton Avenue Collaborative project.

The Taunton Avenue Collaborative would address the need for housing for extremely low-income households, youth aging out of foster care, and low- to moderate-income families. Residents would have access to a variety of supportive services from area nonprofits. The project includes the rehabilitation of an existing four-story building that will include 54 residential units and construction of two new buildings with 106 more residential units.

The project is a collaboration between ONE Neighborhood Builders, which recently purchased 2.95 acres of property for the project, and three other area nonprofits: Crossroads Rhode Island, Foster Forward and Family Service of Rhode Island.

The state funding would be added to the $7.1 million the three groups already secured for the project.

“Housing is one of the most urgent issues facing our community and our state,” Lawson said in a news release.“This exciting project will create 160 new housing units and provide necessary relief for families in East Providence and across Rhode Island. It will make an immediate and meaningful impact on the housing crisis we are experiencing and will provide the entire region with a replicable model to produce more housing.”

“The key to ending Rhode Island’s housing crisis is building more housing,” Kazarian said. “Community collaborations like this one show that we are capable of rising to the challenge. I will continue to support this effort in the House to ensure we invest in housing and promote forward-looking policies that strengthen East Providence and our entire state.”

According to a report released in March, there were 51,596 extremely low-income renters — defined as those making less than 30% of area median income — in Rhode Island. Median area income ranges from $97,600 to $116,600 according to Rhode Island Housing.

“This transformative project would serve as a model for how organizations can partner with government to alleviate the affordable housing crisis,” Taunton Avenue Collaborative partners said in a statement. “If funded, the project would expeditiously add 160 desperately-needed affordable units to Rhode Island’s housing stock for some of our most vulnerable populations.

“We look forward to working with the General Assembly to advance this extremely important appropriation request.”

H6297 is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the House Finance Committee. S985 is awaiting a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.