Chairwoman Alzate introduces bill to turn commercial buildings into housing
Bill is part of Speaker Shekarchi’s legislative package addressing the housing crisis in Rhode Island
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Karen Alzate, Chairwoman of the House Special Legislation Committee, has introduced legislation (2023-H 6090) that would make it easier to convert commercial structures such as hospitals or mills into housing.
The bill is part of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) 14-bill package of legislation to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis.
“In Pawtucket, we have had great success in repurposing our old mill and factory structures into new housing developments and I believe similar successes would be seen across the state with the passage of this legislation. Even in Pawtucket, we have barely tapped the potential of existing and vacant structures to help alleviate the housing crisis and this bill will help spur necessary and vital housing development in the state,” said Chairwoman Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket, Central Falls).
The bill would allow, as a permitted use, the adaptive reuse of commercial structures, such as mills, factories, hospitals, malls, churches and schools, into high density residential developments without the need to go before a municipal planning board for a zone change. The legislation does not take away the municipal review and permitting process for such developments.
Incentives for a developer to look at taking a factory and converting it to housing include not requiring one parking space per unit and the fact that many of these buildings have ample water and electricity, making the building easier to convert since the infrastructure would already be present.
Density would be determined at a minimum of 15 units per acre where the project provides for a portion of low- and moderate-income units and where development is within an existing footprint. All projects would be reviewed under the Development Plan Review.
The bill has been referred to the House Municipal Government and Housing Committee and will be heard on March 16.