COVID-19 Collective Impact Response
Homes RI is a collective impact effort focused on increasing the supply of safe, healthy and affordable homes. The COVID-19 pandemic presented unique challenges to our state’s housing ecosystem and amplified existing ones, including housing instability and low availability. Throughout the pandemic, Homes RI has acted as a hub of communication and collaboration for housing advocates, holding space for a coordinated response through weekly calls. Working as a collective allows us to bring a range of expertise and resources to each issue. Collaboration happens around analysis, policy design, advocacy, information sharing, and addressing direct service needs.
Increasing Funding for Housing
In early summer 2021, the Rhode Island General Assembly voted to pass a budget that included several items that Homes RI has been collectively advocating for, including the dedicated funding stream for housing. The Governor signed the budget on July 6. The newly established housing production fund includes $25 million in “seed money” and will be funded annually by a portion of the real estate transfer tax on high-value residential properties. Homes RI would like to acknowledge and thank the Rhode Island General Assembly and Senate and House champions for their strong leadership on housing.
Additionally, in spring of 2021 the $65 million “Housing and Community Opportunity” bond was approved for housing construction and renovation, property acquisition and community revitalization to improve availability and access to affordable homes. Thank you to all Rhode Island voters who voted Yes on 3!
In March of 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and Rhode Island received $1.1 billion in State Fiscal Recovery funds. The Rhode Island foundation created the Make it Happen: Investing for Rhode Island’s Future initiative to develop recommendations to state leaders for investing ARPA funds. The Homes RI coalition took this opportunity to submit a list of recommendations for spending the $1.1 billion by investing in strategies to equitably increase access to safe, healthy, affordable homes. After months of advocating for substantial investments in affordable homes using ARPA funds, an historic investment of $250 million in housing and homelessness was included in Rhode Island’s FY23 budget. Visit our American Rescue Plan page here for more information about ARPA housing provisions in Rhode Island.
In 2022 the Housing Network of Rhode Island was awarded the Our Homes, Our Votes grant from the National Low Income Housing Coalition to expand our voter mobilization, engagement, and education activities. As we prepared to ramp up voter and candidate engagement in anticipation of the 2022 election cycle, we recognized the importance and significance of permanently expanding voter access and modernizing our elections at a statewide level. This is one of the reasons that our backbone organization, HNRI, joined the RI Voter Access Coalition (RIVAC) in 2020, and actively supported the Let RI Vote Act, legislation that would accomplish these goals, signed by the Governor in June 2022.
In addition to supporting voter access legislation, our team engaged directly with residents and Homes RI partners to strengthen voter education and mobilization within our communities. By providing regular updates and reminders to our network, we were able to encourage more Rhode Islanders to participate in the 2022 elections and make their voices heard. We know that housing opportunities are directly tied to the choices we make at the ballot and we are encouraging everyone to #Vote4Homes. We also strived to create more visibility of candidates’ housing platforms by creating questionnaires and collaborating with our partners on candidate forums. Finally, by drafting a Housing Policy Candidate Guide, we are helping to shape concerned Rhode Islanders’ discussions with legislators about informed strategies to improve our State’s affordable housing.