Survey: 28% of Rhode Island renters struggle to pay housing bills

PROVIDENCE – While one in five apartment dwellers throughout the U.S. can’t pay their landlords on time, the situation is even worse in Rhode Island at 28%, according to a new report from Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

“Rhode Island is facing a housing crisis, one that began long before the COVID-19 pandemic but has only grown in severity,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of the nonprofit. “The housing and homelessness crisis disproportionately hurts families with children, particularly families of color. It is urgent that we invest in our state’s housing infrastructure to support our families, our communities, and our economy.”

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A policy brief called “Housing Instability and Homelessness Among Rhode Island Children” was released on Tuesday afternoon, stating that housing insecurity remains high in the state, leading to family homelessness and unstable housing situations that put children at increased risks of poor education and health outcomes.

The report states that an annual “point-in-time” count of homeless people in Rhode Island conducted in January 2021 revealed a “dramatic increase” in people experiencing homelessness, including a 26% jump in homeless families with children (from 121 in 2020; compared to 153 in 2021).

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The Rhode Island KIDS COUNT report also states that last year in Rhode Island, 323 families with a total of 623 children at one point stayed at either an emergency homeless shelter, a domestic violence shelter, or a transitional housing facility.

Most recently, as of November 16, 2021, 1,013 Rhode Islanders were seeking shelter, nearly half of those belonging to families with children, according to the report.

The Rhode Island KIDS COUNT report states that from Oct. 8 through Nov. 6 this year, 574 Rhode Islanders slept outside or in their cars for at least one night, and 156 were in households with children.

“Almost half (44%) of the adults in these households with children had no income,” the report states. “During that 30-day period, 62 children under the age of 18 slept outside or in their family’s car for at least one night.”

The policy briefing was delivered over a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon that was attended by about 75 community leaders, elected officials, and housing advocates, according to Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

In addition to providing all this information, the policy briefing makes a series of recommendations, including using federal COVID-19 relief funding to address housing problems, filling the position of deputy secretary of Commerce and Housing to oversee housing initiatives, offering additional rent relief funds to the housing insecure, and providing housing and other economic supports to youth over age 18 exiting the foster care system.

“Address the state’s long-term underinvestment in affordable housing by prioritizing affordable housing development and preservation and strategies for addressing the immediate homeless crisis when making decisions about how to invest federal American Rescue Plan Act funds,” the policy briefing states.

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.