HousingWorks Fact Book: Housing affordability in R.I. still out of reach

PROVIDENCE – While steps have been taken to address the state’s housing crisis and Rhode Island’s labor market is recovering in a strong way, many serious challenges still exist when it comes to home affordability in Rhode Island.

That is according to the 2023 Housing Fact Book released Friday by HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University. The housing advocacy organization’s annual publication examines the state’s housing landscape based on social determinants of health, housing cost burdens, race and ethnicity, and what kind of state investments have been made to create additional housing.

Additionally, the Fact Book provides town-by-town data showing what the median household incomes are, median home and rent prices, housing stock and what the affordability gaps are.

The Fact Book can be read in full here.

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According to the Fact Book, the statewide average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment based on R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp.’s 2022 Rental Survey was $1,996, which would require an income of close to $80,000 to affordably rent. That income, the Fact Book says, exceeds the state’s median household income by more than $5,000 and the median renter income by close to $40,000.

Plus, the Fact Book states that households directing more than 30% of their income to housing costs has ramifications for the average household budget and directing more than 50% signals housing insecurity. Based on HousingWorks RI’s analysis, this indicates that more than a quarter of Rhode Island households and close to half of the renters – amounting to 142,470 households – are considered “cost burdened,” the Fact Book states.

The Fact Book also notes that Central Falls is the only city or town in Rhode Island where its median single-family home price is affordable for those with a state median income of just under $100,000. Burrillville, the Fact Book says, is the only Rhode Island municipality where the median renter household income of $41,277 is “sufficient” to affordably rent a two-bedroom apartment.

However, no one working full time on minimum wage can afford an apartment in Rhode Island, the Fact Book states. In fact, of the top 20 jobs considered by the R.I. Department of Labor and Training as “Fastest-Growing Occupations 2020-2030 Projections,” 73% of them do not pay enough to “comfortably buy or rent a home in Rhode Island,” the Fact Book states.

The Fact Book does note that state officials have taken various actions, including eliminating rental application fees and allocating millions in state fiscal recovery funds, to focus on more-affordable housing in the state. HousingWorks RI board Chairman Stephen Antoni and Director Brenda Clement jointly said in the Fact Book that the organization recognizes that there is “no single action or actor” that will solve the housing affordability crisis.

But Antoni and Clement said substantial reliable and sustainable funding is essential, including operating subsidies for affordable rental homes and down payment assistance for ownership, to envision and create diverse housing choices to meet the state’s housing needs.

“We must all act in concert – both institutionally and individually – to ensure every Rhode Islander has a place to call home,” Antoni and Clement said.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.