House passes Rep. Baginski’s bill allowing vacant school and municipal buildings to be repurposed as affordable housing


            STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Jacquelyn Baginski (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) which would allow the repurposing of vacant and unused school and municipal buildings for affordable housing.

            “The significant lack of affordable housing in our state is an issue that negatively affects thousands of Rhode Islanders and it is a problem that has far reaching consequences for every aspect of our society.  This bill will serve as an innovative solution to address a portion of this troubling crisis by not only providing extremely-needed affordable housing, but also by enhancing our neighborhoods and communities by refurbishing and repurposing vacant and unsightly municipal properties,” said Representative Baginski.

            The legislation (2022-H 7943A) establishes the repurposing of schools and other vacant and unused municipal buildings for an affordable housing program, which shall be administered by the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation.

            It requires the League of Cities and Towns to provide Rhode Island Housing with a list of all vacant and unused municipal buildings.  The bill also requires the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission and the Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning to investigate, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Management, the Department of Health, a Fire Marshall, the local building inspector, and the local zoning officer, any potential conversion.

            Once a building is determined to be appropriate for conversion, Rhode Island Housing shall invite prospective developers to bid on the repurposing.

            The legislation is part of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) legislative package that aims to streamline development, provide more complete and timely information about housing and help municipalities meet their affordable housing goals.

            The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.