R.I. Housing, local nonprofits create ‘Yes on 3’ campaign urging voters to approve housing bond

Updated at 4:06 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2021.

PROVIDENCE – A group of nonprofits and the state’s housing agency are collaborating to urge Rhode Islanders to approve a bond measure next month that, if passed, will increase affordable housing across the Ocean State.

The United Way of Rhode Island, HousingWorks Rhode Island, ONE Neighborhood Builders, the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless and R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp. announced Monday that they launched “Yes on 3,” campaign asking voters to sign off on the $65 million Housing and Community Opportunity bond question on the March 2 special election ballot. The campaign said more than 3,200 affordable homes and apartments were created for families, seniors and military veterans in 34 communities with funding that was approved for previous similar bonds.

Additionally, such bonds have generated $780 million in public and private investment in Rhode Island, the campaign said, creating thousands of construction and related jobs, as well.

ONE Neighborhood Builders Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins said in a statement that Providence’s King Street Commons project, which turned a vacant property into 30 apartments and an onsite child care center, was partially funded from a previous housing bond.

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“Voting Yes on Question 3 will spur even more great projects across the state, helping more Rhode Islanders find homes and apartments they can afford, putting our skilled tradespeople to work, and revitalizing communities. That’s a virtuous circle Rhode Island voters should strongly support,” Hawkins said.

However, the campaign said more affordable housing is “desperately needed” as such housing is still limited. The campaign said a household earning the state’s median income of $63,000 would be able to buy a home in only one of Rhode Island’s cities and towns, based on 2019 media single-family home prices.

“If a Rhode Island household is earning $34,000 or less, just under the state’s median renter income, there isn’t a single city or town in our state where they can afford an average-priced two-bedroom apartment,” said Brenda Clement, director of HousingWorks Rhode Island, in a statement. “Our state’s significant lack of affordable homes and apartments is hurting families, our economy, and our communities. Voting Yes on Question 3 is a vote for more safe, stable, and affordable homes that are critical to the health of Rhode Islanders and the future of our state, particularly as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

United Way CEO and President Cortney Nicolato said investing in housing opportunities for all Rhode Islanders will allow the state to address a housing shortage crisis that is holding the economy back. Addressing affordable housing is a key point in United Way’s five-year plan that was recently released.

R.I. Housing Executive Director Carol Ventura concurred, noting an affordable place to live is “essential” and not a luxury. Furthermore, Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless Executive Director Caitlin Frumerie said in a statement that the housing crisis must be addressed today given the homelessness problems are still plaguing the state, and is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There just is not enough housing, and what we have often isn’t safe nor affordable,” Frumerie said. “We must construct more affordable housing or else we are doomed to continue rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Other local organizations, such as Housing Network of Rhode Island, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Rhode Island and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, also are part of the Yes on 3 campaign, as well.

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.

Updated to include additional supporters of the campaign.