Home Economy Economic Activity Roundtable: Accessory dwelling units, revitalized historic buildings could boost R.I. housing

Roundtable: Accessory dwelling units, revitalized historic buildings could boost R.I. housing

OBSERVERS SPOKE ABOUT potential fixes to Rhode Island's slow housing production in a Wednesday afternoon panel discussion called "Trends Impacting Affordable Housing Development," which was facilitated by Maria Barry, national executive for community development banking at Bank of America Corp. Pictured is an aerial view of Providence. / PBN FILE PHOTO/PAMELA BHATIA

PROVIDENCE – As the affordable housing crisis raises alarms across the country, Rhode Island, known for its slow rates of new housing construction, can explore options such as revitalizing historic buildings and creating accessory dwelling units, observers said in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday. The discussion, “Trends Impacting Affordable Housing Development,” was facilitated by Maria

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1 COMMENT

  1. ADUs tend to trend in a couple of flavors. Landlords adding small overpriced units on greenspace or parking areas of their property or someone subdividing their home so they can gain rental income. Neither of these options tend to be affordable housing options. Until cities and town’s remove the roadblocks for multifamily dwellings and Providence modifies their 4 story limit so every proposal doesn’t need a variance we will continue to have issues.

PROVIDENCE – As the affordable housing crisis raises alarms across the country, Rhode Island, known for its slow rates of new housing construction, can explore options such as revitalizing historic buildings and creating accessory dwelling units, observers said in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday. The discussion, "Trends Impacting Affordable Housing Development," was facilitated by Maria Barry, national executive for community development banking at Bank of America Corp., and included Gilbert Winn, CEO of Boston-based WinnCos., and Shaun Donovan, CEO of the national nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. While barriers to affordable and workforce housing have long plagued families and individuals throughout the country, recent years have turned a chronic issue acute, Donovan said. The housing crisis poses a serious threat “not just for families and individuals ... but for the country as a whole,” Donovan noted, and contributes to broader economic stagnancy that can further harm the average resident.  But in Rhode Island, there's been particularly little movement in the affordable housing stock as need skyrockets. Providence-based ONE Neighborhood Builders last year calculated Rhode Island as last in the country for new housing built per capita, which Matin Real Estate later reiterated in a national report. Speaking on the Ocean State, Donovan and Winn said the state's large supply of historic buildings could potentially fill some of the gaps left by a lack of new housing development. “In Rhode Island, and more broadly, you’re seeing an increasing focus on where you can build more housing,” Donovan said, “and part of that, in a place like Providence, where there is more density, can allow accommodations of a few more stories of a building.”  Other avenues for progress could include building upward in dense areas, he added, and focusing on accessory dwelling units, also known as in-law apartments, in areas with lower population densities, as well as the development of transit-oriented communities. But compounding the issue of new housing development, the state's small size can translate to relatively limited federal funding for housing production, Winn said. “Federal funds are based on population, and Rhode Island being a small state but having a large population [in] Providence sometimes suffers from that,” he said. Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.
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