By Madeleine List
PROVIDENCE — Housing advocates on Thursday called on state
legislators to factor affordable housing into their plans to rebuild the
state’s economy, which has been battered by the fallout from the novel
“I encourage our legislators, our advocates
and our community leaders to be courageous, to be bold and to find the
solution so that Rhode Island is truly a safe and affordable place to
call home,” Cortney Nicolato, president and CEO of the United Way of
Rhode Island, said while hosting a Zoom call with other advocates and
lawmakers on Thursday.
more affordable housing, they said, could be a jumping-off point for
Rhode Island’s economic recovery because it would create jobs and help
keep more Rhode Islanders from falling into poverty and homelessness.
the pandemic, safe and affordable housing is vital to prevent the
spread of COVID-19, but housing also offers a pathway to our economic
recovery,” said Nicolato, who noted that the call volume to the United
Way’s 211 social-services hotline has increased by three to four times
The federal government has provided some funding to Rhode
Island through the CARES Act, passed by Congress in March to provide
coronavirus-related relief to states.
Municipalities around the
state have received millions in Community Development Block Grants,
which can be used for rental assistance as well as other types of
housing projects, according to U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, who was not on
Thursday’s call but has been an advocate for affordable housing in
Congress. Three Rhode Island cities — Pawtucket, Providence and
Woonsocket — received Emergency Solutions Grants, which can be used to
help individuals experiencing homelessness, according to Reed.
The CARES Act also includes an eviction moratorium for those with federally backed mortgages until the end of July.
But the federal aid “just scratches the surface” of what Rhode Islanders will need going forward, Nicolato said.
The advocates urged Gov. Gina Raimondo to protect the dedicated revenue stream for the construction of more affordable housing that she pledged to include in her budget earlier this year.
had a housing crisis for years,” said Karen Santilli, president and CEO
of Crossroads, the social-services agency operating the state’s largest
homeless shelter. “This pandemic has made it worse and more urgent.”
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