October 13, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Bonnie Nickerson, Executive Director of the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA), Jen Hawkins, Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders Association, and Sharon Morris, Executive Director of Omni Development Corporation today announced the creation of the Providence Neighborhood Land Bank, a new program through the Providence Redevelopment Agency, funded by the Providence Housing Trust, that will acquire, hold, and transfer underused vacant land throughout the City, with the goal of generating new affordable housing and revitalizing Providence neighborhoods. The City is setting aside $8.5M of Providence’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for the program and today’s announcement comes with an ask: an open call to help identify potential lots for the Land Bank.
“Bold policies and funding are needed to address the housing crisis in Rhode Island and nationwide,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “The Providence Neighborhood Land Bank Program is an important step in finding creative solutions to transform neighborhoods and prioritizing land for those who need it most.”
The purpose of the Providence Neighborhood Land Bank is to acquire and hold parcels for affordable housing until they can be activated through requests for proposals to qualified developers. This process of acquisition, holding, and activation will help address persistent vacant lots while reducing barriers to redevelopment, such as site control and pre-development costs, to promote infill affordable housing. Additionally, the Providence Redevelopment Agency will be supporting the Land Bank program by releasing pre-approved, fully permitted small home plans prepared by local architects, at no cost to developers, to be paired with available lots.
“We all know of an abandoned property or vacant lot in our neighborhoods that could be transformed into safe, affordable places to live,” said Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13). “If residents can help connect the dots in the coming months and alert the Providence Neighborhood Land Bank to these locations, the city, through the Providence Redevelopment Agency, can help turn these properties into desperately needed affordable housing.”
The Providence Neighborhood Land Bank announcement comes a year after the City released its Anti-Displacement and Comprehensive Housing Strategy: a ten-year blueprint for affordable housing production, housing policy and regulatory actions. Since then, the City has implemented many recommendations from the report, including issuing a $25M bond for affordable housing production, adjusting zoning regulations, and launching several new programs, including eviction defense. With the recent influx of federal ARPA funds, the City is prioritizing affordable housing investments as one key focus area in supporting pandemic recovery citywide.
“American Rescue Plan Act funds are meant to provide relief and assistance to our most impacted community members, and so part of those ARPA funds allocated to the PRA should and will be used to acquire, hold and activate vacant land specifically for the creation of affordable housing,” said Bonnie Nickerson, Executive Director of the Providence Redevelopment Agency. “We are excited to partner with our talented community development organizations to help boost their capacity. Together, with this program in place driven by community input, we can make significant strides in increasing affordable housing in our City.”
A crucial component of the Providence Neighborhood Land Bank is the opportunity for Providence community members and stakeholders to nominate vacant plots of land for consideration and incorporation into the program. The Providence Redevelopment Agency is asking members of the Providence community to submit suggestions for the Land Bank via email to . From there, depending on viability, they will be entered into a live database of vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated property in Providence. Once a property has been properly screened to conform with the acquisition policies, such as zoning, lot size, and suitability of the lot for infill housing, the program will utilize of one of many tools by which it can acquire property.
“I applaud the City’s efforts to make these small, vacant lots available without the red tape that typically burdens these developments,” said Jennifer Hawkins, Executive Director of ONE Neighborhood Builders. “We have shown that small properties throughout the city can be developed for affordable housing and can help revitalize our neighborhoods.”
For more information about the Providence Neighborhood Land Bank, including a detailed information sheet, please visit the City’s website.