House approves affordable housing bills

 

STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved two affordable housing bills sponsored by Rep. June Speakman that are part of Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s legislative package to help address the state’s housing crisis.

The bills, both of which now go to the Senate for consideration, streamline the approval process for affordable housing developments and create a more robust system for ensuring that affordable housing remains affordable and occupied by those who qualify for it.

“Rhode Island’s serious lack of affordable housing is a problem that has many causes and facets. It’s going to take ongoing work on many fronts to achieve the substantial, comprehensive improvements we need,” said Representative Speakman (D-Dist. 68, Warren, Bristol), who is chairwoman of the Special Commission to Study the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act. “The bills the House passed today help address some of the supply problem by making it quicker and simpler for affordable housing developments to get the permits they need, and they provide a way to continually ensure that affordable housing is actually affordable and that the people living there meet the income limits. These bills address some of the problems we have identified, and we’re going to keep working on solutions for more.”

The legislation was submitted based on the work of the special commission Representative Speakman leads, which has been working over the last year on improvements to housing development and affordable housing laws.

One of the bills (2022-H 7650A) establishes an approved monitoring agent program within the Rhode Island Housing Resources Commission, which would develop rules and regulations and appoint approved organizations to monitor municipally subsidized housing developments to ensure they remain affordable, and that income eligible buyers and tenants are occupying these units. Such agents are currently contracted through outside organizations, but their responsibilities are not spelled out in state law.

The legislation specifies that the agents are responsible for ensuring that designated affordable housing units continue to serve as the year-round, principal residence of the qualified owner or tenant and that any proposed refinancing or sale complies with applicable affordable-housing deed restrictions.

The other bill (2022-H 7949A) speeds up the timeline established in state law for municipal review of comprehensive permits for affordable housing developments. The bill shortens the length of time municipalities can take to review various elements of developers’ plans, most notably reducing from 120 days to 90 days the time they can take to review a comprehensive permit application once it is complete.

Additionally, it speeds up the appeals process when a comprehensive permit is denied, requiring municipalities to provide the State Housing Board of Appeals (SHAB) the complete record of the development’s applications within 30 days, and requiring a decision by the body within nine months, or no more than 11 months if there are extenuating circumstances.

 

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