Five Questions With: David Salvatore

DAVID SALVATORE is the legislative lobbyist for the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. / COURTESY DAVID SALVATORE

David Salvatore is the legislative lobbyist for the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. He spoke to the Providence Business News last week about the new state program aimed at helping Rhode Islanders get into apartments, using federal incentives for landlords, including funds for renovations.

The program, called Housing Now!, links landlords to tenants through a matching service to be provided with the help of the United Way of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Association of Realtors. The goal is for 100 vacant apartments to be leased by July 1. It is accessed by dialing 211.

PBN: Do you know what the response has been so far?

SALVATORE: As of Monday, June 22, landlords have pledged 40 units to residents, according to Gov. [Gina M.] Raimondo’s daily press briefing. RIAR will remain in communication with the United Way and the governor’s office so the program is easily accessible and provides stable housing for some of our most vulnerable residents.

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PBN: Are there sufficient numbers of landlords who have empty units?

SALVATORE: Yes. Just based on some of the data I’ve looked at over the past couple of years, there does seem to be a shortage of units. However, during the pandemic, what we have found is there could be units available.

With the challenge that has been given by the governor, in partnership with the Rhode Island Association of Realtors and the United Way, landlords are incentivized not only to rent out the units but to make some of the upgrades that are necessary to make those units suitable. That is an important selling point when promoting the program, that landlords can make the renovations that are necessary, so they are providing prospective tenants with a higher quality of life.

PBN: So, lead paint, for example, in older units. This would allow a landlord to paint over all of those surfaces and be able to rent the unit to families with children?

SALVATORE: Right. There are resources available, where in the past the landlord might not have had the means to make those upgrades and improvements and rent out the space. Now, they are able to take advantage of some of the resources that are available via the COVID-19 emergency funds. Prospective tenants will have a place to sleep at night that is not only vacant but is also suitable and in conformance with local and state codes.

PBN: How did the Realtors get involved in this and what is their role? Is there a financial commitment?

SALVATORE: Throughout the pandemic, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors has had a very communicative relationship with the governor’s office in terms of keeping Realtors, clients, homeowners and tenants safe.

I think throughout the pandemic, what we have seen is the more communication that happens between private-sector businesses and government, the more a solution can be afforded to residents. Especially during a time of crisis when many residents are not collecting a stable paycheck.

It was important for us to build on that relationship we already had with the governor and provide resources and solutions to help folks who needed it during the COVID-19 crisis. In terms of the funding that’s available, it’s my understanding that this particular program allocates $500,000 to provide rental assistance to tenants and that funding has been allocated from the COVID-19 federal emergency funds.

PBN: In general, what is your sense of the market for rental housing? There seems to be concern that even if the universities reopen, there may not be as much enrollment as in years prior to COVID-19. Do you think we will have vacant units in Providence because of that?

SALVATORE: If there are vacant units, obviously a landlord would want to take advantage of programs that are available to their business and to prospective tenants. We view the program that we’re partnering with the governor on as a win-win. Not only for prospective tenants but for homeowners as well.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at

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