Oct. 3, 2022
Homelessness in R.I. could reach an all-time high this winter, advocates say
PROVIDENCE — Holding hand-written signs that read, “Housing is a human right,” and “End homelessness now,” about 50 advocates for the homeless marched to Governor Dan McKee’s office on Oct. 3, demanding the state declare a state of emergency over the inadequate number of shelter beds available this winter. Advocates and outreach workers say they are expecting more people will be forced to live outside this winter than at any other point in decades.
“I’ve been tracking this data since 1990. We’ve never had this many people outside as winter is approaching,” said Eric Hirsch, a Providence College sociology professor and co-chair of the state’s Homeless Management Information System Steering Committee.
Approximately 1,260 people — including children — were waiting for shelter in Rhode Island, according to data by the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness as of Sept. 24. That’s an increase of 70 people compared to the week prior.
Sept. 30, 2022
R.I. to spend $3.5m on additional shelter beds before winter
PROVIDENCE — As winter approaches, Rhode Island is distributing $3.5 million to six local organizations to create additional shelter space to help homeless people, the state housing department announced Sept. 30.
The funding will allow organizations to create 231 new beds in addition to the 64 beds that were funded through the Consolidated Homeless Fund earlier this summer, according to the governor’s office.
The $3.5 million is the first round of awards made after the housing department asked nonprofits to submit fully planned projects to add shelter space. Chris Raia, a spokesman with the housing department, said additional awards related to shelter expansion will be announced “in the coming weeks.”
Sept. 30, 2022
Could an Olmstead plan solve part of R.I.’s homeless problem?
PROVIDENCE — Housing and mental health advocates are pushing Governor Dan J. McKee to create a state Olmstead plan, which could help fund housing solutions for homeless Rhode Islanders who are living with disabilities or struggling with addiction, their mental health, and other issues.
Rhode Island is one of seven states — and the only one in New England — that does not have any plan in place to protect this vulnerable population. An Olmstead plan coordinates and funds supervised, affordable, and supportive housing options for people who live independently with SSI/SSDI benefits and housing vouchers, educational and employment supports, transportation, home modification, criminal justice reform, community and home-based services, an various treatment options, among other supports.
Roughly 63 percent of Rhode Island’s homeless population are people with disabilities, according to 2020 data from the R.I. Homeless Management Information System.
Aug. 15, 2022
Providence mayoral candidate Cuervo calls for public housing developer and rent stabilization
PROVIDENCE — Providence mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo on Aug. 15 called for creating a municipal developer program to build new affordable housing in the city, and he called for capping rent increases at 4 percent annually for apartments that are 15 years or older.
Cuervo said he worked to develop a series of housing policy proposals with Reclaim Rhode Island, a progressive group founded by volunteers for Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in Rhode Island. His housing plan includes a public developer, a rent stabilization program, a mandatory eviction diversion program, and proposed land use changes.
Cuervo is running in a Democratic primary against former state administration director Brett Smiley and Providence City Council member Nirva LaFortune, and no Republican candidates are in the race. Read more.
Aug. 11, 2022
McKee signs legislation dedicating $250m to affordable housing for low-income R.I. residents
WARWICK — Governor Dan McKee signed a long-sought bill that dedicates $250 million toward affordable housing for the state’s low-income residents.
“This historic investment will not only create and preserve thousands of units of housing, but it will also transform blighted properties, strengthen communities, and create good-paying construction jobs in the process,” McKee said on Aug. 11 , accompanied by housing advocates, politicians, and US Senator Jack Reed.
As a cosponsor to the LIFELINE Act, Reed helped make $350 billion in flexible funding available under the American Rescue Plan Act’s State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to be used for the development, repair, and operation of affordable housing units.
McKee said housing remained a priority. Of the $250 million, he said his administration will work to create new housing across all income levels, stabilize households that are at risk of involuntary displacement or homelessness, and improve the quality and safety of the existing housing stock. Read more.
Aug. 4, 2022
Providence mayoral candidates focus on drug addiction recovery, lack of city housing
PROVIDENCE — With just over a month until the primary, city residents filled the Jim Gillen Teen Center on Aug. 4 as three candidates looking to succeed outgoing Jorge O. Elorza as mayor made their case on statewide issues.
There was little disagreement on the major issues among the candidates, who are all Democrats. Each agreed housing is a human right and that additional housing construction is necessary in the city.
Gonzalo Cuervo said he knew the city was never going to be “flush with cash,” but that Providence has many tools at its disposal to help with housing. While Nirva LaFortune and Brett Smiley both said they would continue using multi-year Tax Stabilization Agreements — often called TSAs — which usually involve low property tax payments up front and gradually increase until the deal ends — for the construction of housing. Read more.
July 28, 2022
Housing has become less affordable in much of New England, new report finds
PROVIDENCE — A person earning minimum wage in Rhode Island would have to work at least 79 hours each week in order to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent, according to a new national report.
The Out of Reach report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition also found that Rhode Islanders need to earn a minimum of $24.32 per hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment at fair market rate in 2022.
The fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Rhode Island is $1,264. To be considered affordable, rent plus utilities should cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Therefore, a household would have to earn $4,215 monthly and $50,579 annually on average, according to the report. Rents are more expensive in certain parts of the state, such as the Newport-Middleton-Portsmouth area, and could require a higher income. Read more.
July 22, 2022
5,000 mobile showers: A milestone R.I. housing advocates would like to see reach zero
PROVIDENCE — It wasn’t a celebration. There was no cake, one speaker noted, no candles or confetti.
On Friday, House of Hope CDC, an organization that serves people who are homeless in Rhode Island, recognized the more than 5,000 free showers and more than 1,000 free haircuts provided at its Shower to Empower mobile unit since its April 2018 launch.
But the real long-term goal is to not have to do this anymore — the goal is to get people housing, so they don’t need to come out to the Dexter Training Ground for things as simple and humane as personal grooming. Read more.
May 27, 2022
Brown and McKee spar over homelessness, Human Services jobs
PROVIDENCE — Progressive challenger Matt Brown sharply criticized Governor Daniel J. McKee during a gubernatorial candidate forum May 27, blasting the McKee administration’s efforts to shelter the homeless and its plan to fill 48 vacant state jobs by contracting with a firm blamed for a massive computer debacle.
McKee, a Democrat, responded by accusing Brown of “grandstanding” on the homelessness issue, and defended the hundreds of millions of dollars he said his administration has budgeted for affordable housing and winter shelter programs.
May 13, 2022
Senate bill would create state Department of Housing
PROVIDENCE — A state Senate bill introduced on May 13 would create a state Department of Housing, tapping $300 million in federal funds to buy and build homes in response to Rhode Island’s housing crisis.
Senator Meghan E. Kallman, a Pawtucket Democrat, introduced the Create Homes Act, saying no other state has taken this action to address to acute shortages of affordable housing.
Rhode Island has an array of housing organizations that are doing excellent work, such as Rhode Island Housing, HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University, and local organizations such as the Pawtucket Central Falls Development, she said.
But Kallman, who is vice chair of the Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee, said there is clearly a need to have put more “muscle” behind a single entity that could create more housing throughout the state. Read more.
May 12, 2022
Protesters call for McKee to do more for homeless people
PROVIDENCE — Luz Arroyo choked back tears as she stood outside Governor Daniel J. McKee’s office on May 12, talking about how she was evicted from her apartment in Pawtucket after her husband died and now sleeps in a car. “I don’t have anywhere to go,” she said.
She called for state government to “help not only me but other people that are homeless,” saying, “I know how these people are suffering out here, just like I am suffering.”
Arroyo was one of about 25 protesters who came to State House demanding that McKee do more to help homeless people who are being forced to leave winter shelters and hotel beds.
McKee’s proposed budget includes a $250 million investment in housing, press secretary Alana O’Hare said in a statement Thursday. His proposal includes $21.5 million to assist those experiencing homelessness or housing instability, $5 million to increase shelter capacity, and $90 million to create and preserve housing units for households that earn up to 80 percent of the area median income, O’Hare said. Read more.
May 3, 2022
Housing remains top issue in R.I. among families of color, says national report
PROVIDENCE — More than 10 percent of Rhode Island babies are living in “crowded housing,” which is when homes have “numerous people who live in close quarters,” according to a new report on the well-being of babies in the US, which published May 3.
According to “The State of Babies Yearbook: 2022,” which is part of the Zero to Three’s Think Babies, there are greater crowded housing disparities among families of color. In Rhode Island, which still ranked high in the report among the rest of the US for how the state was supporting babies and families, reported that about 32 percent of Asian babies and 34 percent of Black babies live in crowded housing and about 15 percent of babies in all low-income families live in crowded housing.
Most families of color in Rhode Island live in crowded housing at higher rates compared to the national average, Patricia Cole, Zero to Three’s senior director of federal policy. Housing for Rhode Island’s babies and toddlers, she explained, is one of the biggest issues. Read more.
April 26, 2022
Housing advocates demand Governor McKee extend emergency shelter beds
PROVIDENCE — Housing advocates lined the hall outside Governor Daniel J. McKee’s office at the State House April 26, demanding that he provide temporary emergency shelter to those who will soon be forced to leave winter shelter beds.
Activists, who were shouting “Housing is a human right” outside the governor’s closed office door, were largely organized by the RIHAP, Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), and Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE).
Rhode Island set aside funding in December to establish more than 500 hotel and emergency shelter beds due to the COVID-19 crisis. The people who have occupied those beds for months are being phased out, which will force many to sleep outside this summer, advocates said.
The protestors asked the state to immediately order temporary emergency shelter with 500 beds and find sites for them, including the House of Hope’s ECHO Village. They also demanded a well-planned funding path for these constituents to be placed in permanent supportive housing or deeply subsidized housing. Read more.
April 22, 2022
Affordable housing developers to renovate South Providence’s run down ‘Clown Town’
PROVIDENCE — For many in the South Providence neighborhood once nicknamed “Clown Town” by outsiders because of the brightly painted exteriors, the revitalization of this now blighted section has been a long time coming.
On April 25, Rhode Island Housing, Omni Development, and Wingate Capital Associates will begin to redevelop the abandoned, fenced off complex into 79 affordable housing units with four townhouses for sale.
Construction will take 18 to 24 months, but once its complete there will be on-site property management, resident services, a computer lab, on-site laundry facilities and parking, and each unit will be energy efficient.
Families with incomes ranging from 30 percent to 80 percent of the area median income will be able to afford to live in 54 of the units at 16 Somerset St. and 25 of the units at 15 Somerset St. That means only 30 percent of their income will go toward rent. For a four-person household, the maximum annual income would be $69,600, according to the US Office of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. Read more.
April 21, 2022
More than half of Rhode Island’s lowest-income renters are at risk of homelessness
More than half of Rhode Island’s lowest-income renters are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing alone, and are at risk of homelessness, according to a newly released report.
On April 21, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released its annual “The Gap” report, which looks at the shortage of affordable homes across the country.
Rhode Island has just 51 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income (also known as ELI) households, who are those with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of the area median income (AMI).
Most of Rhode Island’s housing stock pre-dates 1980, and advocates said that the “decades of underinvestment in housing development” is forcing the lowest-income renters to rent homes that are more expensive than they can afford. Read more.
April 20, 2022
Makeshift homeless shelter Operation Hunker Down is shutting down
PROVIDENCE — After more than 100 days of operating as a makeshift emergency homeless shelter in the shuttered American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club building on Smith Street, the organizers behind “Operation Hunker Down” have shut it down.
On April 19, Providence Fire Captain Derek Silva made a surprise visit to the building to ensure it was up to code and occupancy levels were being enforced. He found fire logs hadn’t been filled out by volunteers over the weekend, David Gerard O’Connor, who operated the shelter, told the Globe.
Operation Hunker Down opened in January when O’Connor, a 2014 Providence College graduate who lives nearby, invited five people experiencing homelessness to sleep on mattresses in the old building on a freezing night. Less than a month later, 35 to 45 people were staying there.
Since opening the shelter, O’Connor said it has served more than 100 people experiencing homelessness. He said more than 40 have gone into detox and other programs. Read more.
April 15, 2022
How much did rents go up in Rhode Island?
Rhode Island renters are paying an average of 11.2 percent more per month in rent — and as much as 126 percent more in some areas — than they did a decade ago, according to recent census data.
Rents in Rhode Island rank No. 23 highest in the US, according to the data released earlier this year, with a median renter paying $1,031 per month, up from $927 in 2010. In West Greenwich, monthly rents rose to $2,200 per month, up from $928 per month just a decade earlier.
April 11, 2022
How much did housing costs go up in Rhode Island?
Newly released census data shows that Rhode Island ranked No. 15 in the country for highest housing values among US states, and costs are only rising.
Rhode Island had a median home value of nearly $277,000 in 2020, according to data collected for the American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Among New England states, it falls behind the median home value of nearly $400,000 in Massachusetts and just shy of $279,000 in Connecticut.
The survey tracked data from a time period between 2016 and 2020, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on an already booming residential real-estate market.
The survey did not offer a breakdown of unit size, yet Rhode Island had only 1.9 percent more housing units in 2020 than it did a decade ago, but the population grew by 4.3 percent during that same time. Read more.
March 30, 2022
Operation Hunker Down shelter ordered to reduce capacity, more than 20 people to be displaced
PROVIDENCE — More than 20 people could be back on the street after the state’s fire board ordered Operation Hunker Down, a makeshift emergency homeless shelter in the Smith Hill section of Providence, to lower its capacity to 16 people.
David Gerard O’Connor opened Operation Hunker Down in the shuttered American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club building on Smith Street in January, inviting five homeless people to sleep on mattresses in the old building on a night when temperatures dipped below zero.
But after providing shelter, outreach, food, and other support services for nearly three months, the state fire board told the shelter on March 29 that they had 72 hours to dwindle its capacity down to 16 people. There were more than 40 people staying there as of March 29.
Local zoning laws require shelters to have a maximum capacity of 16 residents, the Rhode Island Fire Safety Code Board of Appeals and Review told the Globe. The fire board also heard testimony from the Providence Fire Department and the Office of the State Fire Marshal regarding unsafe conditions at the shelter, according to the board’s statement to the Globe. Read more.
March 30, 2022
Life in a Motel 6 brings hope to homeless people. Until the money runs out.
WARWICK, R.I. — When Heather Geraghty-Wright is going through a tough time, she looks at a tattoo on her right shin, where “Love Mommy” is written in her mother’s handwriting. Sitting on the half-made bed in her motel room, she caresses the tattoo with her electric blue-painted nails as the ashes from her lit cigarette tumble down her leg.
At 49, she’s dealt with more than a few hard times: Her mom’s boyfriend started molesting her when she was 2 and continued until she was 13. She started experimenting with crack and meth at a young age, and got pregnant twice by the time she was 21. She dropped out of school in the seventh grade, and was sent to prison for 34 months for her first drug possession charge. There, she earned her GED and took classes in building mechanics. But when she got out, she found herself in a series of abusive situations.
Right now, she stays at this Motel 6 thanks to a grassroots effort led by Help the Homeless R.I. She and about a dozen others were living in nearby tent encampments. The small nonprofit pays for the rooms using a mix of donations, city, and other funds. But she’s facing another hardship: Funding is running out. Read more.
March 23, 2022
More than 90 percent of R.I. domestic violence victims couldn’t access housing, emergency shelter
PROVIDENCE — In a single day last fall, approximately 61 victims of domestic violence requested supportive services in Rhode Island, from housing to transportation, that assistance programs could not provide because of a lack of resources. But 93 percent of these unmet services were for housing and emergency shelter in particular. This is compared to a single day in 2020, where 58 percent of those unmet needs among victims were for housing or emergency shelter.
“The housing crisis is really impacting domestic violence victims. There’s just less affordable housing, so victims are staying in shelter much longer than they ever had to,” said Lucy Rios, the interim executive director Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in a phone interview with the Globe. Read more.
March 22, 2022
R.I. receives $10m from HUD for emergency shelters, rapid rehousing
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island will receive more than $10.4 million to help local providers and community partners deliver affordable housing and supportive services to those experiencing homelessness.
The federal funding, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Continuum of Care grants, will support 37 local homeless housing and service programs across the state. The funds will help both individuals and families, said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, on Tuesday. Read more.
March 17, 2022
Despite unprecedented federal dollars, housing advocates say R.I. still isn’t designating enough funds to build, preserve units
PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island needs more than 20,000 homes that low-income renters could afford, despite an unprecedented amount of cash available to help the state develop new units. The state has more than $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds from Congress and a huge state surplus, yet housing advocates say that not enough of that money is being dedicated toward housing.
Governor Dan McKee proposed a $250 million investment in housing and homelessness assistance using the recovery funds in his FY2023 budget this year. It’s the biggest chunk allocated from the ARPA funds, but only $90 million of that money will go toward “creating and preserving” about 1,500 units for households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income (which is about $69,200 for a four-person household).
But the actual investment was still only about half of what advocates asked the McKee administration to allocate toward the problem.
“We have a lot of need,” Melina Lodge, the executive director of the Housing Network of Rhode Island, said on a call Wednesday night. “And the challenge when getting a once-in-a-lifetime investment is wondering: When will Rhode Island ever get this type of money from the federal government ever again? I don’t envy the government that has to make the decisions. Read more.
March 10, 2022
‘Redlining never really went away’: Black Rhode Islanders still face racism when buying a home
PROVIDENCE — Disparities in home ownership between Black people and people of all other races persist. In the US, more white, Asian, and Hispanic Americans have owned homes than Black Americans, according to a newly published report from researchers at Brown University called “The State of Black Rhode Island Homeownership.”
And the disparity is especially bad in Rhode Island. Overall home ownership in the Ocean State is about the same as in the US overall: 64 percent of all Americans owned a home in 2019, and 62 percent of all Rhode Islanders did.
The disparity becomes clear when the data is broken down by race. In the US, 73 percent of white Americans owned a home in 2019, compared to 42 percent of Black Americans. But in Rhode Island, 62 percent of all residents owned a home in 2019, compared to just 34 percent of Black Rhode Islanders, according to Dr. Akilah Dulin, a behavioral and social sciences professor and lead researcher on the report, which was paid for by the United Way of Rhode Island. Read more.
March 10, 2022
R.I. House unveils 11 bills to address housing crisis
House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi and Representative June S. Speakman on March 10 unveiled a package of 11 bills to address Rhode Island’s house crisis.
The bills aim to streamline development, provide more complete and timely information about housing, and help cities and towns meet affordable housing goals.
“We need all types of housing,” Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, said during a State House news conference. “We need mixed-use housing, single-family housing, multi-family housing, low- and moderate-income housing, public housing, affordable housing. We need more of a supply. We must end or eliminate the barriers to creation. This package which we have introduced makes a significant step in that direction.” Read more.
Feb. 15, 2022
As R.I.’s housing crisis becomes critical, private citizens are addressing it on their own
PROVIDENCE — David Gerard O’Connor had planned to turn the shuttered American Lithuanian Citizens Beneficial Club building on Smith Street into a community center, hosting events and welcoming back regulars. Instead, on a cold night in January, he opened the old building to five homeless people who had nowhere else to turn, letting them sleep on mattresses he’d placed on the function hall’s floor.
He dubbed the makeshift shelter Operation Hunker Down. Now, less than a month later, 35 to 45 people sleep there on any given night.
“I’ve seen a lot of these people around the neighborhood,” said O’Connor, a 2014 Providence College graduate. “No matter their circumstance, they are still human. They deserve a warm place to sleep at night.” Read more.
Feb. 15, 2022
At Operation Hunker Down, life in a makeshift shelter brings hope and heartache
PROVIDENCE — “It was Jan. 11. I looked at the screen on my computer after teaching a class and saw that it was going to be 10 degrees outside,” said David Gerard O’Connor. He knew that people were sleeping outside, and mostly in encampments that were getting dismantled by the city and police. “I looked around and realized that I needed to do something.”
Volunteers keep Operation Hunker Down running, and they have faced hurdle after hurdle: None of them are paid, the shelter does not receive funding from the city or the state, at least one of them needs to be on premises at all times, and there are fewer than five people who volunteer consistently. Some of them are close to homelessness themselves.
Here are some of their stories. Read more.
Jan. 20, 2022
During a crisis, zoning laws are hindering construction of affordable housing units
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — This week, three young families finally moved into a renovated multi-family home trading years of housing insecurity for stability after aging out of the foster care system.
But every time Lisa Guillette walks into the building, just blocks away from the old McCoy stadium, she says she feels a little heartbroken over what could have been on the top floor. Read more.
Jan. 25, 2022
New report says RI’s property tax system is out of balance, hindering affordable housing construction, economic development
PROVIDENCE — Property taxes are the largest source of local revenue in Rhode Island, but yet, are causing imbalances in municipal services, like the construction of affordable housing, K-12 education, and economic development, according to a newly released report by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council (RIPEC).
The report, “A System Out of Balance: Property Taxation Across Rhode Island,” which was released Jan. 25, found there’s a striking difference among tax burdens of resident homeowners, nonresident homeowners, and businesses. Read more.
Jan. 23, 2022
R.I. nonprofits awarded $2m in federal funding to help the homeless
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — U.S. Senator Jack Reed announced that $2 million in federal funding is available to help Rhode Island charitable organizations assist people experiencing homelessness this winter.
Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, made the announcement about the new Emergency Food and Shelter Program funding with the United Way of Rhode Island on Friday.
The money can be used to supplement food and shelter programs run by local nonprofits and social service organizations.
About $1.25 million will be used in Providence County and the rest will be distributed across the state. Read more.
Jan. 10, 2022
R.I. launches $50 million homeowner assistance fund
PROVIDENCE — For Rhode Island-based homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments, a new government assistance program may be able to help.
The governor’s office and Rhode Island delegation Jan. 10 announced a new $50 million program that will help provide financial assistance to eligible Rhode Island homeowners who have struggled to pay their mortgage payments or other housing-related expenses due to the pandemic.
The program, Homeowner Assistance Fund Rhode Island (HAF-RI), is designed to prevent mortgage delinquencies and defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacement of homeowners that have experienced financial hardships. Read more.
Dec. 8, 2021
Crossroads R.I. receives nearly $500k to begin homelessness intervention
PROVIDENCE — The mayor and nonprofit stakeholders on Dec. 8 announced a citywide initiative to address homelessness and substance misuse for Providence’s most vulnerable residents, which will use $495,000 of the city’s American Rescue Plan dollars.
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, members of the city council, the Rhode Island Foundation, the Providence Foundation, and Crossroads Rhode Island will collaborate on a new mobile diversion program for Providence residents experiencing unsheltered homelessness. Through the new program, Crossroads will assist individuals living in places not meant for human habitation to either regain permanent housing or enter a shelter or transitional housing program.
Assistance will range from financial support for costs related to securing housing to referrals for mental and behavioral health supports. Read more.
Dec. 7, 2021
Senator Mendes and others have slept in tents outside the R.I. State House for a week
Senator Cynthia Mendes, who is running for lieutenant governor of Rhode Island, alongside former secretary of state Matt Brown, who is running for governor, and a group activists pitched tents a week ago on the Smith Street side of the State House, sleeping outside to call attention to the plight of hundreds of unhoused Rhode Islanders.
And they want Governor Dan McKee and state leaders to take action.
“You feel vulnerable sleeping outside. While you’re unconscious, somebody can harm you, somebody could reach you, get to you, and it’s a tremendously vulnerable feeling that is really hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself,” Mendes said.
In October, more than 570 Rhode Islanders slept in their cars or outside, and 156 were in households with children, which do not include situations of people fleeing domestic violence situations. Read more.
Dec. 16, 2021
Small homes could make a big difference amid R.I. housing crisis
PROVIDENCE — In a pilot project, ONE Neighborhood Builders has completed five 750-square-foot ‘net-zero energy’ homes topped by solar panels in Olneyville.
The homes are topped by solar panels and were built in a South-facing arc to maximize solar production. Airtight and well insulated, the structures meet the “net-zero energy” standard, meaning they produce as much energy as they consume.
The two-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom homes are being occupied by income-qualified buyers, with starting price of about $140,000. For example, two of the homes are reserved for families earning 80 percent of the area median income, meaning $52,400 for a family of two and $65,500 for a family of four. And they’re deed restricted, meaning they must be sold to other income-qualified buyers.
Sheridan Small Homes is a pilot project that aims to demonstrate “that it is economically feasible to build affordable housing to high sustainability standards and that people want to live in smaller homes,” ONE Neighborhood Builders said in a written case study of the project. Read more.
Dec. 1, 2021
R.I. approves nearly $31m for affordable housing, creating and preserving more than 600 units
The McKee administration’s Housing Resources Commission has approved nearly $31 million in funds for 23 affordable housing projects in Rhode Island. These funds will be used to produce and preserve more than 600 units of affordable housing in 13 cities and towns in the state, after it garnered approval from the state’s Housing Resources Commission.
This $31 million in funding is the largest round of awards made through the Building Homes Rhode Island (BHRI) program since the program’s inception in 2006, according to the governor’s office.
Christine Hunsinger, the chief strategy and innovation officer at Rhode Island Housing, said construction on some of the projects is already underway where additional funds were necessary to help pay for the rising costs of materials. Other projects won’t begin until sometime in 2022. Read more.
Nov. 30, 2021
Nearly 30 percent of renters in Rhode Island can’t keep up with their rent
PROVIDENCE — About 28 percent of renters in the Ocean State reported they could not keep up with their rent from Sept. 15 to Oct. 22, according to newly released data by Rhode Island Kids Count, slightly more than the one in every five renters in the US who reported that they could not pay their monthly rent during the peak of the pandemic.
And if a family is pushed out of their home or gets evicted, shelter is not always guaranteed in Rhode Island. Shelters are at capacity, and in Rhode Island people do not automatically have a right to it. As of Nov. 16, 1,013 Rhode Islanders were seeking shelter, and 45 percent of them were in families with children and 26 percent were children under the age of 18. Read more.
Nov. 29, 2021
Schools receive grants to support homeless students in Rhode Island
Eight school districts in Rhode Island will receive federal funds to support homeless students.
Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced that more than $336,000 in McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) sub-grants have been distributed to the public school districts in Central Falls, Middletown, Newport, North Kingstown, Providence, Warwick, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is the centerpiece of federal legislation related to the education of children who are unhoused in the US. It was reauthorized by Title IX in December 2015. Read more.
Nov. 24, 2021
After fighting addiction, abuse and homelessness, three women and their children find hope – and a home
Stephanie Lafleur, 37, put herself through treatment centers and social services programs, and slept in homeless shelters. When her time at one long-term treatment program was coming to an end, though, she and her son needed a place to go or else they’d end back up on the streets. She was connected to House of Hope, a non-profit, community development corporation, and moved into her own apartment at Rockville Mill last November.
The building was previously vacant and in receivership until Marathon Construction purchased and rehabbed it for housing. Marathon, a Boston-based developer identified House of Hope as a service provider and brought them into the project. Lafleur was one of the first residents to move in about a year ago, with her son, who will be 4 in March. And she’s now nearly three years clean.
The building that Lafleur and her son are living in has 12 other units filled with families who had previously been couch surfing or living in cars, shelters, or on the streets. The House of Hope program comes with wrap-around services to help the families become stable mentally and physically, offering help with transportation and support for children in school. Read more.
Nov. 22, 2021
From her view as lieutenant governor, housing policy changes are needed country-wide
PROVIDENCE — When Sabina Matos transitioned from president of the Providence City Council to lieutenant governor in early April, she promised to prioritize affordable housing.
She told the Globe at the time that while Providence had an abundance of high-end and luxury apartments, it was becoming harder for teachers, police officers, and other working class residents to stay in the capital city. Since visiting all 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island, she said it’s an issue across the state, not just in Providence.
Matos is advocating for changes on the federal level so that “unhoused” people under a wider variety of circumstances can receive government assistance, not just those who fall under HUD’s current definition of “homelessness.”
“I’m using every opportunity I have to contact any representative from any state so I can talk about this and why we need to advocate together for changes,” she said.
Nov. 18, 2021
‘Locked out’: Poor Rhode Islanders face unnecessary barriers to subsidized housing, study says
PROVIDENCE — People trying to get federally subsidized housing in Rhode Island face rules around criminal records, alcohol use, tenant histories, and credit that go well beyond the guidelines laid out in federal law.
That’s according to a study by Boston University School of Social Work doctoral candidate Megan Smith and associate professor Thomas Byrne, published earlier this year in the journal Housing Policy Debate and titled “Locked Out: The Systematic Exclusion of Poor Renters From Federally Subsidized Housing.”
Smith and Byrne’s team looked at 293 federally subsidized housing providers in Rhode Island. They include project-based rental assistance developments, which are private developments that receive federal subsidies, and public housing authorities.
Only 25 percent of people eligible for subsidized housing actually get it, according to a 2017 study they cite. That’s bound up in problems with housing supply, but these restrictions don’t help. Read more.
Nov. 11, 2021
Advocate: R.I. leaders are sitting on federal funds as homelessness crisis intensifies
PROVIDENCE — Governor Daniel J. McKee and General Assembly leaders are sitting on millions in federal funds and displaying none of urgency required as the state’s homelessness crisis worsens and winter approaches, an advocate said on the Rhode Island Report podcast.
Professor Eric Hirsch, a Providence College urban sociologist who has been advocating for the state’s homeless population since 1990, said he has never seen so many people living outdoors as Rhode Island reels from the pandemic, housing costs skyrocket, and shelter waiting lists grow longer by the day.
Hirsch, who chairs the state’s Homeless Management Information System Steering Committee, called for the governor to declare a state of emergency and to get state department heads involved in finding solutions. Read more.
Nov. 3, 2021
Governor McKee pledges $5m to shelter the homeless this winter
Rhode Island is earmarking $5 million for the creation of 275 additional beds for people dealing with homelessness, Gov. Daniel McKee announced Nov. 3.
Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said the spending could go toward investments in existing shelters to provide more “food services and other support services and staffing to carry out the work.”
The money will be distributed by state’s housing offices to organizations already working with people without permanent shelter, such as Crossroads RI. Read more.
Oct. 31, 2021
Providence removes West End encampment days earlier than planned
PROVIDENCE — Days before the Nov. 1 deadline that it had imposed for people to leave, the city removed a West End homeless encampment, heading off a potential confrontation but angering service providers.
The site is partially owned by a company planning to redevelop it, and the Providence Redevelopment Agency. The part owned by the city agency will eventually be part of the development, which will include housing, renovating and repurposing a nearby mill, and parking.
At its peak, around 15 people were living in the encampment, which started sometime in late spring. After the city told people they had to leave in early June, Mayor Jorge Elorza pledged that the city would not remove the encampment until they had short-term and mid-term solutions, and progress toward a long-term solution. Read more.
Oct. 29. 2021
They aged out of the R.I. foster care system, and are struggling to find stable housing
PROVIDENCE — Youth aging out of the foster care system are especially vulnerable to experiencing homelessness and often forgotten, said Lisa Guillette, the executive director of Foster Forward, a nonprofit that helps empower those who have been impacted by foster care. Their clients are typically between 18 and 26.
About 20,000 youth 18 to 21 across the country age out of foster care annually, which means the state was not able to find an adoptive family or reunify them with their biological family.
The cost of housing, experts say, is why more than 660 people were living outdoors in September in Rhode Island. More than 3,500 children lived in foster families or other non-relative heads of household, according to the 2021 Rhode Island Kids Count Fact Book. Another 700 lived in group homes.
At Foster Forward’s East Providence headquarters, “drop ins” are offered three times a week, where kids can come by, charge their phone, get a hot meal, do laundry, and get support services such as help filling out housing and Section 8 applications. Read more.
Oct. 22, 2021
With winter closing in, R.I. homelessness crisis keeps getting worse
The homelessness crisis in Rhode Island is worse now than it has ever been, service providers say. Demand for services is up, but the supply hasn’t risen fast enough to meet the enormous challenge. At the same time, the state has $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds available for use — but no apparent urgency to use it.
Service providers like Sara Melucci, the manager of outreach programs for House of Hope, are frustrated by the pace of progress.
This comes at a time when the state has $1.1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funding sitting in the bank. Governor Dan McKee has laid out plans for an initial down payment of 10 percent, which would include housing relief. McKee wants the money out the door by the end of the year. That’s more urgency than the General Assembly has shown, but to service providers, it’s not nearly fast enough. Read more.
Oct. 21, 2021
She took her daughter and ran from an abusive relationship. Now they’re homeless
CUMBERLAND, R.I. — Elizabeth finally left the man she spent the last 13 years with one Saturday in June. Despite her dedication, her ex’s controlling behavior got worse.
But because she’s been on Social Security Disability Insurance for the last two years, on a fixed income of $560 each month, she hasn’t had enough to get an apartment or even change the oil in her old Jeep. She gets food stamps to help put dinner on the table, but money is tight.
Elizabeth and her daughter stayed in a hotel through a temporary program paid for by the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness. But that program ended after 20 days, and they had to turn to a friend and double up in his tiny, one-bedroom apartment in Cumberland. She and her daughter live in the bedroom and he sleeps on the couch.
Vanessa Volz, executive director of Sojourner House, said even before the pandemic the organization didn’t have the capacity in its shelters and units.
The situation is similar at the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or RICADV. According to the Domestic Violence Counts Report for Rhode Island, which is compiled by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, on a single day last September, there were 584 victims served in one day, looking for refuge in emergency shelters, transitional housing, counseling, legal advocacy, and children’s support groups. Read more.
Oct. 20, 2021
City orders Providence homeless encampment to vacate by Nov. 1
PROVIDENCE — Public safety officials on Oct. 20 delivered a notice to a West End homeless encampment telling them they had to vacate by Nov. 1, sparking criticism from some advocates for homeless people but relief from the councilwoman representing the area.
The notice told people who are there that possessions left on site would be removed and stored for 30 days, and that city services including trash removal and portable toilets would end after Nov. 1. The notice encouraged people to call the Coalition to End Homelessness for assistance and shelter placement. Read more.
Oct. 20, 2021
Advocates help raise money for R.I. family struggling to avoid homelessness after eviction
WARWICK, R.I. — Donna Wood and her four children, including a 15-month old with serious disabilities, were evicted from their home in West Warwick earlier this year and are currently living in a hotel in Warwick. After their struggles were documented in The Boston Globe, advocates are helping Wood get back on her feet.
They helped her set up a GoFundMe account, which has already raised more than $5,000 toward her $25,000 goal, Wood said.
Wood and her children — who are 20, 15, 11, and 1 years old— are sharing a single hotel room, which has been paid for by a program through the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness, but will be forced to leave when the program ends for her on Oct. 31.
Wood is the sole caretaker and provider for her 15-month-old son, Corey, who was diagnosed with infantile spasms, optic nerve hypoplasia, encephalomalacia, and global developmental delays. Read more.
Oct. 18, 2021
After eviction, a family struggles to avoid homelessness
WARWICK, R.I. — Just two weeks after Donna Wood gave birth to her fourth child, she hoisted herself up into the driver’s seat of her truck, wearing her red and black polo with a Honey Dew logo on it. She peered into the rearview mirror and saw his infant seat, ready for him when he could finally come home.
Her newborn son, Corey, was still in the hospital — an intrauterine stroke and a brain bleed meant he was born with severe disabilities — and Wood was exhausted, with two teenagers and an 11-year-old at home. Still, rent was due, and she had to go back to work immediately. Like always, she did what she had to do.
By late spring 2021, Corey was out of the hospital, but he required around-the-clock care. He had been diagnosed with infantile spasms, optic nerve hypoplasia, encephalomalacia, and global developmental delays. His medical equipment filled their apartment, and he often required trips to the emergency room, which meant Wood had to call out of work. Still, they were getting by — until Wood’s landlord sold the home that Wood and her children had lived in for five years. Read more.
Oct. 7, 2021
McKee unveils plan to use $113m of Rhode Island’s ARPA funds
PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee unveiled plans Oct. 7 to spend 10 percent of Rhode Island’s $1.13 billion in American Rescue Plan by investing in small businesses, child care, and housing. His budget amendment, he said, was a “down payment” on Rhode Island’s economic comeback.
His plan included approximately $32 million to go towards Rhode Island’s small businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
McKee’s plan invests $15 million to incentivize the development and renovation of affordable housing. It would be targeted at assisting individuals with an income below 80 percent of area median income, according to McKee’s budget. And $12 million would go toward investing in property acquisition grants that would be administered by Rhode Island Housing.
About $1.5 million would invest in housing stability and mental health services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness and $500,000 would go toward temporary contract staffing support for the Office of Housing and Community Development. McKee also proposed that $500,000 to be allocated toward broadband coordination. Read more.
Sept. 23, 2021
Advocates call on R.I. to use $500m of federal dollars on housing
A group of Rhode Island housing organizations are calling on the state to use nearly half of its federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act to fix the state’s housing crisis.
In a newly published report, advocates requested the use $500 million of the state’s $1.1 billion ARPA funds to be allocated to affordable housing. The advocates called for $350 million to go toward producing, protecting, and preserving affordable homes statewide; $60 million to go toward housing access and stability statewide; and $90 million to support municipalities and the state in creating and preserving “safe and healthy homes.”
The advocates called for clear results to be produced by 2030, including at least 1,800 new deed-restricted homes for low-income households and to decrease the homeownership rate disparity between BIPOC communities and white communities. Read more.
June 11, 2021
Elorza visits homeless encampment in Providence, pledges compassionate solution
PROVIDENCE — Mayor Jorge Elorza on June 11 visited the encampment on Wilson Street in the city’s west end and pledged to come up with a compassionate solution to a difficult problem.
Police had handed out notices June 9 that told people they had to leave within 48 hours or be subject to civil or criminal penalties. Two days later, though, Elorza rejected the notion that the city would call in the cops or bring in bulldozers.
About 15 people are at the encampment, which has prompted complaints from neighbors — but support from them, too.
Outreach workers say there are no other options in Rhode Island’s temporary or long-term shelter system right now. There are more than 600 people on shelter waiting lists right now. Homelessness has increased in the last year, with more people living outside, in cars and in other places not fit for human habitation. Read more.
June 10, 2021
Providence orders homeless people to leave encampment in the West End
PROVIDENCE — City officials are attempting to oust about 15 people living in tents on a vacant lot in the West End, with police giving them 48 hours to clear out or face civil and criminal prosecution.
Benjamin N. Smith, a spokesman for Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, said, “The current situation at the encampment along Wilson Street is unsafe for the people living there. The city is working with social service providers to offer them safe, stable shelter and additional resources.”
House of Hope executive director Laura Jaworski said busting up encampments is counterproductive, sapping the energy of service providers without doing anything to address the root causes. “It sets us back,” she said. “It’s a short-sighted win.” Read more.
May 19, 2021
Sojourner House is getting into the housing business in Rhode Island
PROVIDENCE — Finding housing for survivors of abuse was a struggle before the pandemic hit.
There was already so much demand that Sojourner House had stopped keeping a waiting list for the 126 apartments it leases for people who’ve escaped domestic violence, sexual abuse, or trafficking.
Vanessa Volz, executive director of Sojourner House, said the nonprofit got more desperate calls from people seeking help escaping to a safe place — and those who had places to live were struggling to keep them.
The agency has three emergency shelters, with 23 beds, intended to help people in the immediacy of leaving an abusive situation. They can end up staying for months, because there is nowhere else for them to go, Volz said.
Sojourner House is seeking to buy its own properties for long-term homes for victims, by applying for funds in the American Rescue Plan and US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The board of directors recently approved of Sojourner House becoming a full-scale housing agency and developer, and have all of its services integrated. Read more.
May 19, 2021
Rhode Island’s housing market is on fire
There are only five ZIP codes (out of 74) in the entire state where it would take two or months months to sell off the inventory of homes available, according to new data from the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. A normal market would be between four and six months of inventory, which means we’re in an extreme seller’s market.
The median sales price for single-family Rhode Island homes in April was at an all-time high of $349,000, and the median price on multi-family homes was $355,000.
If you are house hunting, here’s a look at the five communities with the most homes available — that is, where it might take more than two months to sell the inventory — as of May 10. Read more.
April 29, 2021
‘We have clearly reached a crisis’: House Speaker Shekarchi makes housing his priority
PROVIDENCE — New House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi is putting the power of his position behind a new priority: housing.
Shekarchi, a Warwick Democrat, has introduced a package of seven housing bills, and some are starting to become law.
On April 19, Governor Daniel J. McKee signed a bill into law prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to people with government housing vouchers. Other bills would create a high-level “housing czar” position within state government and allow cities and towns to count “tiny homes” as affordable housing.
In an interview, Shekarchi said housing isn’t just his priority; he said many legislators are focused on this issue because Rhode Island’s housing situation is so dire. Read more.
April 14, 2021
Sabina Matos to focus on increasing affordable housing in Rhode Island
After being sworn in at the State House on April 14, Sabina Matos said she plans to make housing a statewide priority.
“One of the challenges that we have in Providence is that you can find housing for the high end, but if we want our teachers and police officers to live in the city, we need have housing available to them,” she said.
Matos, 47, who was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States in 1994. She stepped down as president of the Providence City Council before being sworn in as Rhode Island’s 70th lieutenant governor — the first person of color to hold that position. Read more.
Feb. 25, 2021
R.I. wants to borrow $65m for affordable housing. Advocates say it’s a start, but not a solution
PROVIDENCE — On March 2, voters around Rhode Island will go to the polls to vote in a special election to approve a few different state borrowing proposals. One of the questions will ask voters if they want the state to borrow $65 million for affordable housing and community development. The money would fund things like low-income rental developments, new homes to sell to working-class people, and renovations for abandoned properties.
These questions usually pass without much fuss. There have been three affordable housing ballot questions since 2006, all of them OK’ed by Rhode Island voters. This one will be the biggest yet by dollar amount after Governor Gina Raimondo upped the amount of the request in the midst of the pandemic. Read more.
Jan. 26, 2021
Developer buys former Memorial Hospital property in Pawtucket, plans housing for R.I. veterans
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — Almost two years after a purchase-and-sale agreement was signed for the former Memorial Hospital property, Lockwood Development Partners announced Jan. 26 that it has closed a deal with Care New England Health System.
Lockwood, a New York City developer, confirmed it’s collaborating with Veteran Services USA to transform the vacant site into a housing complex for the state’s aging veterans.
The plan for the Brewster Street site includes a 390,000-square-foot campus with more than 200 apartments prioritized for senior veterans, an adult day health care facility for therapy and other social services, a career training and education program for new veterans reskilling or upskilling for the civilian workforce, as well as medical and lab space to address the veterans’ and surrounding community’s health needs.
The project is expected to cost $70 million and create up to 500 jobs during construction and 60 permanent jobs, according to Mayor Donald R. Grebien’s office. Read more.