Chairman Abney introduces bill to increase affordable housing units

Bill is part of Speaker Shekarchi’s legislative package addressing the housing crisis in Rhode Island


            STATE HOUSE – Rep. Marvin L. Abney, Chairman of the House Finance Committee, has introduced a bill which would increase the number of allowable units per acre for all housing projects subject to inclusionary zoning. 

            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.

            Inclusionary zoning is the practice of ensuring that housing projects proceed with a mix of residents representing different economic backgrounds and circumstances.  For instance, inclusionary zoning requires a certain percentage of units in new developments be reserved for low- or moderate-income individuals and households.

            According to data from Housing Works RI, the median income in Rhode Island in 2021 was $70,305, yet “low-income” households make less than $50,000 in median income and “moderate income” households earn less than $80,000.  As Chairman Abney points out, a single working mother with two children and earning $47,000 would make less than 60 percent of the area median income and would be considered a moderate-income household.  That family would be unable to purchase a home in any of the state’s 39 cities and towns.

            This legislation would allow developers to build more units per acre if a certain percentage of those units are set aside for low- and moderate-income houses.

            “Our state cannot succeed if our residents and workers cannot afford to live here, it’s as simple as that.  This legislation will incentivize further and expanded development of low- and moderate-income housing that is desperately needed in Rhode Island so that everyone is able to live, work and raise their families in our state.  This crucial change in how we develop affordable housing is a long time coming and I applaud Speaker Shekarchi for his focus on correcting the growing and concerning housing crisis,” said Chairman Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown).

            The legislation (2023-H 6058) makes amendments to the inclusionary zoning statute to require a base density bonus of at least a 30 percent increase in allowed dwelling units per acre, as well as other incentives for the development of much-needed affordable housing.

The bill does not change the process or permitting by municipalities, or take funds away for use for affordable housing within the municipality. The legislation would be effective January 1, 2024.

            Chairman Abney’s bill will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow (Tuesday, March 28) at the RISE of the House (approximately 5 p.m.) in Room 101 of the State House.


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