Assembly approves Speaker Shekarchi’s legislation

to help address housing crisis

Bills would create a Secretary of Housing cabinet-level position, allow multi-family units to count toward low or moderate income housing inventory

 

STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi that is part of his ten-bill housing package passed by the General Assembly. The legislation is also backed by Rep. June S. Speakman, chairwoman of the Special Legislative Commission to Study the Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act.

The first bill, 2022-H 7940 SUB A, would elevate the position of the Deputy Secretary of Commerce for Housing to a cabinet-level position within the Executive branch of state government. The Secretary of Housing would report directly to the Governor and would be required to participate in the promulgation of housing regulations. The legislation would be effective as of July 1, 2022.

“If we are making housing a top priority, we need to treat is as such. That means empowering the Secretary of Housing with the authority to make decisions and hold agencies accountable, but also making the Secretary of Housing responsible for ensuring that we meet our goals,” said Speaker Shekarchi. “The Housing Secretary will be charged with creating Rhode Island’s plan for greater housing development. We need to streamline our state’s housing initiatives through one person, with a dedicated department to support those efforts.”

The legislation would give the Secretary of Housing oversight over the state’s Office of Housing and Community Development. On or before November 1, 2022, the Secretary of Housing will develop a housing organizational plan to be provided to the General Assembly; the organizational plan would include a review, analysis, and assessment of functions related to housing of all state departments, quasi-public agencies, boards, and commissions. The legislation also establishes the Department of Housing within the Executive branch as of January 1, 2023. The Secretary of Housing would include in the plan comprehensive options and recommendations relating to the functions and structure of the new department.

“Our state’s housing crisis developed over many years and the forces driving it are myriad and complicated. Similarly, addressing this issue is going to require deliberate, careful work, and it’s going to be an ongoing effort. Today we are pleased to make progress on many of the aspects of housing creation and access that our commission has identified, and we continue our commitment to meet our state’s housing challenges. I’m very grateful to the members of our housing commission, led by Rep. June Speakman, for the hard work, insight and consideration they’ve contributed to this effort over the last year, and that they will continue to provide as we work collaboratively on this critical issue into the future,” said Speaker Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick). 

The second bill, 2022-H 7941A, would provide that multi-family apartment units build under a comprehensive permit may be calculated towards meeting the requirements of a municipality’s low or moderate income housing inventory. The legislation also requires that at least 30% of the units created are deed restricted for households earning not more than 60% of AMI, and that at least 50% of the units created are deed restricted for households earning not more than eighty percent 80%.

This legislation is part of Speaker Shekarchi’s ten-bill housing package passed by the General Assembly that aims to tackle Rhode Island’s housing crisis from multiple angles: by streamlining development, providing more complete and timely information about housing, and helping municipalities to meet their affordable housing goals.

 

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