Rhode Island Advocates Secure Affordable Housing Wins

Housing Network of RI, HousingWorks RI, and the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless—organizations involved in a multi-sector advocacy effort called Homes RI—recently secured two major wins for affordable housing in the state. First, after four years of advocacy, the Rhode Island House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H-5257, which bans housing discrimination based on lawful source of income. Second, 66% of voters supported a $65 million affordable housing bond in Rhode Island’s special election which occurred in early March.

For several years, housing advocates worked with the State of Rhode Island’s General Assembly to pass legislation banning source of income discrimination. This essential legislation ensures that individuals with housing vouchers are not discriminated against by landlords. In previous years, the legislation passed the Senate but did not pass the House of Representatives. This year, the House passed the legislation by a vote of 68-7. It will move on to the Senate, where it is expected to pass and be signed into law. To advance the bill, advocates lobbied their representatives, testified at committee hearings, and rallied at the State House.

Homes RI has advocated for the affordable housing bond since November of 2019. The bond was first introduced in the former governor’s budget at $25 million and was then expanded to $65 million as a part of a robust COVID-19 economic package. The United Way of Rhode Island provided $100,000 for the campaign which funded radio ads, direct mail outreach, video production, and digital media. Members of Homes RI, including Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, Housing Network of RI, and HousingWorks RI, composed the small committee of stakeholders which guided the campaign’s messaging.

The Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless led multiple get-out-the-vote phone banks before the special election. Thirty volunteers participated in the phone banks and made over 1,600 calls. Advocates organizing in a variety of ways ensured the affordable housing bond passed in 35 of the 39 municipalities.

Homes RI is also advocating for a dedicated funding stream for production of affordable housing in the State’s budget. Rhode Island’s proposed FY22 State budget currently proposes a pathway to do this, and there is also legislation in the State’s General Assembly that proposes a dedicated funding stream for housing.

For more information on either of these campaigns or for ways to get involved please contact Katie West, manager for Homes RI, at [email protected]