Anti-Displacement and Comprehensive Housing Strategy and Historic $20 Million Housing Bond to Guide City’s Vision for Expanded Access to Safe, Affordable and Equitable Housing
December 16, 2020
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined City Council Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan, Deputy Majority Leader Mary-Kay Harris, Director of the Department of Planning and Development & Executive Director of the Providence Redevelopment Agency Bonnie Nickerson and Omni Development Corporation Executive Director Sharon Morris to unveil the City’s Anti-Displacement and Comprehensive Housing Strategy (the Strategy) and first-ever City Affordable Housing Bond. As COVID-19 amplifies the critical housing needs facing Providence residents, the City’s comprehensive housing plan builds an actionable 10-year road map for policy recommendations, new programs and housing investments.
“This comprehensive strategy could not come at a more crucial time,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “We are living through unprecedented social and economic change, which we already see is heavily impacting housing security within our community. If we truly want to build a more equitable future for generations of Providence residents, it starts at the home. I am proud of the incredible community engagement we’ve done thus far and look forward to taking this next step forward with my colleagues in Council.”
Last fall, the City of Providence engaged RKG Associates to embark on an in-depth analysis of Providence’s housing market. As part of the 10-month process, a series of discussion groups, stakeholder interviews, and community working sessions provided essential insights for the development of the Strategy. In September, the City released the preliminary recommendations during a virtual public meeting with nearly 100 members of the community in attendance. The community was invited to submit comments and feedback, which were integrated with the draft plan.
“On behalf of the City Council, we are proud to be working hand in glove with the administration on tackling affordable housing in our community,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “We know that so many in our City are suffering and are cost-burdened, and today’s announcements are steps in the right direction. We look forward to working with our colleagues in government on these important initiatives.”
Key findings outlined in the plan include:
- Providence households are cost-burdened: Residents earning less than 30% of Area Median Income (a household of 3 earning less than $22,100 annually) have the greatest affordability challenges and the least housing choice.
- The City’s older housing stock creates challenges: Providence’s housing stock is some of the oldest in the country, with almost 70% of the City’s supply built before 1959.
- Extremely low-Income households are underserved: Providence households earning less than 30% of Area Median Income have the greatest affordability challenges and the least housing choice.
- Housing choice and type are limited in several areas of the City: Disparities exist in affordability based on location in the City.
The key findings reflect Providence’s diverse housing ecosystem and the varying needs of renters, homeowners, landlords, developers, and community members. They helped shape the programmatic, policy, and regulatory approaches the City will take to advance affordable housing, including:
- Identifying new financial resources to invest in Providence’s existing housing stock to preserve and enhance its affordability and quality.
- Building upon collaborative partnerships to leverage existing housing resources with new funding sources in targeted areas to accomplish shared goals of safe and healthy housing, increased prosperity for all residents, and improved quality of life citywide.
- Encouraging price diversity in all new housing construction through incentive programs that both ease the cost development and create safer, affordable units in underserved areas.
- Implementing innovative regulatory changes and new policies to allow for creative housing solutions including increased homeownership, more robust rehabilitation of existing housing, incremental density in areas close to transit and job centers, and reducing displacement of long-term Providence residents.
A full overview of recommended policy and programmatic changes, including recommended funding strategies, is available in the draft report, here.
In partnership with Providence City Council, and the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA), Mayor Elorza also announced today the first-ever City Affordable Housing Bond. The City Council recently authorized a $20 million bond to stimulate affordable housing construction. Ten percent of city tax payments from all projects with a tax stabilization agreement will capitalize the housing bond, administered by the Providence Redevelopment Agency. With this transformative public investment, the PRA opens a call for proposals for construction and project financing to invest in the production, preservation, and protection of affordable housing in Providence.
Director of the Department of Planning and Development & Executive Director of the Providence Redevelopment Agency Bonnie Nickerson stated, “The City of Providence is putting the needs of our residents first. This housing strategy and new funding underscore that the City of Providence is willing to take the bold steps necessary to address the critical housing needs in our community, at a time when our residents need it the most. We’re thrilled to be advancing this work and setting a clear direction for the next decade.”
“In October, the City Council made a historic commitment to addressing the shortage of affordable housing in the City by passing legislation that authorized the PRA to borrow up to $20 Million to capitalize the Housing Trust Fund. This Council initiative is anticipated to create 1,500 affordable homes for our residents in the next three years,” continued Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “When the Council created the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, we did so to provide critically needed gap financing to encourage the production, preservation, and protection of affordable housing. I want to thank my colleague Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, our affordable housing partners, the Administration, and my Council colleagues past and present for their hard work on addressing the housing inequality in our City.”
City Council Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris remarked, “I am so proud of the work the Council has done to address the inequities in our housing here in Providence. The COVID-19 Pandemic has shown a bright light on those inequities, and we must work together to ensure that every resident has a roof over their head. It’s not only our obligation as elected leaders, but it’s a basic human right that every person regardless of their income should be guaranteed in the richest nation in the world. We have not made this kind of investment in affordable housing in our City for as long as I can remember, and I am proud to stand with my colleagues in government to make this important and much-needed investment for our residents.
As the City anticipates the release of the Anti-Displacement and Comprehensive Housing Strategy, the public is encouraged to review the draft report and provide comments over the next 30 days. The City will integrate community feedback into the final plan, to be released in early 2021. For more information about the Strategy—including how to submit feedback—visit the City’s website >> http://www.providenceri.gov/planning/comprehensive-housing-strategy/