Reps air concern on state’s affordable housing mandate in Glocester, work on forming coalition

Sen. Gordon Rogers

GLOCESTER – Officials in several rural and suburban towns say they fear that they won’t get a fair shake when the General Assembly unveils legislation to deal with the shortage of affordable housing.

In reaction, legislators including Rep. Mike Chippendale of District 40 in Glocester, Foster and Coventry; and Sen. Gordon Rogers of District 21 in Coventry, Foster, Scituate and West Greenwich, are forming a coalition of rural and suburban towns in hopes to ensure that any legislation enacted treats towns fairly.

“It’s extremely important that the rural and suburban communities be heard,” said Chippendale on Thursday, Feb. 2 at a meeting with the Glocester Town Council.

So far, representatives from Glocester, Foster, Exeter, Scituate, Richmond, Hopkington, and West Greenwich have reportedly signed on to the coalition, a group separate from the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns.

Rhode Island’s communities are very different from each other, so “there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Rogers said.

Commissions and boards formed to study housing issues have mentioned that local zoning regulations are obstacles to solving the housing shortages. That, said the General Assembly members, is what worries those in the coalition. 

Towns vary in population, available land, infrastructure, zoning, and character, argues Rogers, who warned against a knee jerk reaction to the housing shortfall. Speaker of the House Joe Shekarchi told the press last month that he would consider cutting state aid to the cities and towns that don’t comply.

Under the Rhode Island Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004 and Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act, each town must have  at least 10 percent of their housing stock fall under the category of “affordable housing.”  To date, only Burrillville and New Shoreham have fully complied.

“With a strong coalition, they have to listen to us rather than trample on us,” Rogers said.

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