Back on March 2, 2021, Rhode Island voters passed a state bond referendum authorizing the issuance of $65 million in bonds to increase the availability of affordable housing and support community revitalization through the redevelopment of existing structures, new construction, and property acquisition.
RIHousing was authorized by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation to implement and administer the program using $15 million of these funds for the improvement of properties that are blighted or in need of revitalization.
RIHousing’s Board of Commissioners approved funding awards under the state’s Acquisition and Revitalization Program (ARP) at the agency’s March Board meeting.
“Supporting affordable housing is critical to maintaining healthy communities and a strong economy in Rhode Island,” said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner.
“These bond measures will quickly boost the state’s stock of quality and affordable housing, stimulate community revitalization, and generate good-paying jobs while helping to ensure an inclusive and broad-based recovery for all Rhode Islanders,” he added.
Now, on April 1, 2022, Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee announced more than $5 million in funding awards to revitalize blighted and vacant properties in Providence and Central Falls. The awards will fund 42 affordable rental homes and one new public facility.
Proposals that met these criteria were then reviewed and the following developments were selected for funding awards:
- Community Music Works Center, Providence, sponsored by Community Music Works, will construct a new 24,000 square foot community facility on a vacant lot at 1326 Westminster St. in Providence. This project will transform a blighted lot into a vibrant community center promoting youth music education, music performance, and community building. The new facility will include performance space, classrooms, a music library, administrative offices, and a ground floor café open to the public.
- Copley Chambers Phase I, Providence, Marathon Development will renovate a blighted historic building at 206 Broad St. into a mixed-use development. This project will provide 26 affordable housing units and supportive services for residents earning between 30 percent and 80 percent of area median income (AMI) as well as an ancillary commercial space for a service provider. The building is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Hannah Homes, Providence, SWAP, Inc. will demolish existing blighted buildings and construct three two-family homes on the site. Owner-occupied units will be restricted to eligible buyers at 100 percent of AMI; rental units will be restricted to tenants with incomes at or below 80 percent of AMI.
- Central Street Phase II, Central Falls, Pawtucket Central Falls Development (PCFDC) will revitalize an existing blighted building and vacant lot to create ten affordable three-bedroom rental units for residents earning between 30 percent and 80 percent AMI. Three units will be designated for homeless youth transitioning out of foster care. PCFDC has partnered with Foster Forward, who will provide a subsidy and long-term case management for residents of these three units.
“When Rhode Island voters went to the polls in 2021, they understood the positive impact affordable housing and community revitalization can have on our state,” said McKee. “I thank them for having the foresight to recognize the kinds of long-term and strategic investments that Rhode Island needs.”
The ARP’s purpose is to stabilize neighborhoods and communities by strategically targeting foreclosed and/or blighted properties and vacant lots in need of redevelopment. ARP funding is available statewide, but 75 percent of the funding is set aside for urban communities.
“Replacing nuisance properties with community assets such as affordable housing units is a win-win for our residents,” said Lt. Governor Sabina Matos. “I applaud our voters for supporting these investments and our community partners for leading this important work.”
The income of households that will occupy the redeveloped properties is limited to 120 percent of Area Median Income ($83,050 for a two-person household). In addition, ARP prioritizes the redevelopment of properties located in low- and moderate-income census tracts or that serve low- and moderate-income households.
“We’re excited to make these awards as they help to support our communities and non-profit partners, provide opportunities for families and local businesses to thrive and positively impact neighborhoods in our urban core,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director at RIHousing. “With the award of these funds, we’re laying the groundwork to position Rhode Island for a bright future.”
In November 2021, RIHousing issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for ARP funds from qualified applicants. In response, RIHousing received 17 proposals requesting almost $28 million in ARP funding.
To be considered for funding, applicants must demonstrate that the development activity will commence within six months of approval and is financially feasible. Applicants must also have the experience and capacity to complete and operate/maintain the project and demonstrate the need or demand for the project through market analysis, local demographics, existing demand for the project, etc.
Image of Copley Chambers adaptive reuse project courtesy of Marathon Development.