Campaign: Housing Justice Legislation
Reclaim RI is fighting to pass legislation to address the housing crisis and protect and enhance tenants’ rights. Working with Pawtucket Sen. Meghan Kallman and Warren Rep. June Speakman, we’re championing the legislation to give the state the power and resources to build mixed-income public housing. The bill draws on the model of European “social housing,” envisioning the creation of high-quality homes to serve people at a range of income levels, including middle- and working-class tenants who struggle to afford places to live in today’s market, and poor people who can’t currently access the safe and decent housing they deserve. We’re also supporting companion bills—the Homes for All legislative package—that would create a revolving fund to finance the public housing developer, and a set of taxes to permanently subsidize public housing development, deepening and widening its affordability.
Here’s a little more information about the bills we’re fighting for in the State House:
The Create Homes Act will allow the Department of Housing to address the housing crisis by:
- Authorizing the Department of Housing to fund, contract, and build mixed-income housing.
- Creating a land bank to recapture and develop housing on underutilized public property.
- Funding the acquisition, preservation, and renovation of existing multi-family housing.
- Overriding exclusionary housing laws where affordable housing needs are unmet.
- Reducing segregation through increased income diversity.
The Housing Production Revolving Fund will create permanent funding for housing development. Capitalized by a $50 million bond, the fund will provide the short-term financing necessary to get the construction of mixed-income public housing started quickly.
Proposed taxes on harmful housing activities to promote housing justice will create additional revenue to compliment the revolving fund and be used for rental subsidies. We believe that a revolving fund will be a huge step forward toward a social housing system but that additional subsidies, including those listed below, will be necessary to fully realize that ambition at the levels of affordability required by poor and working-class tenants. These measures will:
- Impose a $1 per $1,000 property surtax on second homes, which would raise $10-15 million per year statewide.
- Institute a new, progressive tax modeled on a Vermont policy that suppresses housing speculation. In Vermont, if you own a house for more than six years, land gains from a sale are not taxed. But if you cash in on a short-term flip, the tax on the gains can be high. A similar tax in Rhode Island could raise $10 million annually for the first few years.
These bills are part of a broader Homes for All legislative package. We are also fighting for tenant rights legislation championed by Providence Sen. Tiara Mack and others that would, among other things, allow for tenants to seal their eviction records, impose rent control, and abolish application fees. The passage of the Homes for All legislative package would spur one of the first investments by Rhode Island’s government in new public housing in decades—and would make ours the first state in the nation to create this kind of public developer program.
To help us pass the Homes for All legislative package and ensure the human right to decent housing in Rhode Island, get in touch here.