House approves bill to more get more specific in recognizing communities’ affordable housing efforts

 

STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Brandon Potter to provide cities and towns more flexibility in meeting their affordable housing targets, while also incentivizing the development of housing to serve those most in need.

The legislation (2022-H 7948A), which is part of Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s housing legislative package, creates a weighting system to be used when calculating each community’s percentage of affordable housing. Under that system, each new unit would be assigned a weight based on its deed restriction, with those that are reserved for the lowest-income households counting for as much as two units, and those whose restrictions are set at 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) or higher counting as less than one. The legislation also allows mobile homes to count toward a community’s affordable housing target for the first time.

The system is designed to recognize that there are varying levels of affordability within “affordable housing,” and to provide greater incentive for the development of very affordable housing.  

“Rhode Island’s housing crisis is hurting people across the income spectrum, and the lower the household income, the more difficult it is to find and afford housing. This legislation is one more tool to encourage housing development, reward communities in ways that correspond fairly to the needs they are addressing and provide flexibility to municipalities,” said Representative Potter (D-Dist. 16, Cranston). “All affordable housing is needed right now, but not all affordable housing is equally affordable. We need incentives that correspond with our needs and that fairly recognize communities for all their development efforts.”

Existing state law sets a target for every city and town to have at least 10 percent of its housing units qualify as affordable. Only about six of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns currently meet that target.

Under this bill, instead of counting each affordable housing unit equally, each would be weighted according to its deed restriction. Those whose deed restriction allows them to be sold or rented to households above 100% of AMI up to 120% would count as .5 of an affordable unit, and those deed-restricted for households above 80% and up to 100% would count as .75. Those restricted for households above 60% and up to 80% of AMI would count as 1. Those restricted to above 30% and up to 60% would count as 1.5, and any restricted to those lower than or at 30% of AMI would count as 2 units.

The change would take effect prospectively, applying only to new housing units that are issued a certificate of occupancy on or after Jan. 1, 2023. Previously built units will still be counted as a single unit, regardless of their deed restriction.

The bill addresses a long-standing issue over whether mobile homes should be counted as affordable housing. The bill allows each new and existing mobile home to be counted as .5 units, regardless of the income of the current occupant, but only if its owner either owns the land upon which it stands, or it is part of a resident owned community, and it meets safety standards.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

 

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