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RIHousing Awards Funding from Workforce Housing Innovation Challenge

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July 8, 2021

Press Release

Investments will expand range of housing options for more Rhode Islanders

Providence, RI – RIHousing has approved awards for the creation of workforce housing under the agency’s Workforce Housing Innovation Challenge (WHIC) program at its June Board meeting. The awards will help build or preserve 301 rental units, of which 74 will be workforce-assisted units, at developments in Providence and West Warwick.

“Creating more housing options at a range of price points that Rhode Island families can afford is essential to economic growth and development throughout the state,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I’m pleased these awards will help build and preserve 300 units of much needed housing in our state.”

RIHousing’s Workforce Housing Innovation Challenge (WHIC) program seeks to expand the range of housing options available in Rhode Island through the creation of rental homes for households earning up to 120% area median income (AMI), or $103,800 for a family of four in Providence. In many cities across the country, it is increasingly difficult for middle-income workers (teachers, healthcare professionals, municipal employees, etc.) to buy or rent housing in the areas in which they work. This is due to both a lack of available housing options and wages not keeping up with the increased costs of living.

“The term ‘workforce housing’ is most often used to indicate a program targeted at households that earn too much to qualify for traditional affordable housing subsidies typically limited to households at 60% or 80% of AMI” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “The WHIC financing addresses the affordable housing needs of a segment of the state’s workforce, who are increasingly caught in the gap between rising market rents and ineligibility for other affordably assisted housing.”

Currently, the state’s housing stock and building activity aren’t adequately addressing the 80% – 120% AMI housing market. Like many states, in Rhode Island most new unrestricted housing has been built in the ‘luxury’ segment of the market and housing targeted to people who cannot afford ‘luxury’ rents has typically only been built when subsidies were available. However, subsidies are almost always reserved for units that serve families with incomes below 60% of AMI, about $43,260 for a family of four in Providence. Households who need workforce housing may not always qualify for subsidized housing.

In January of 2021, RIHousing issued a Request for Proposals for WHIC Program funds, the second round of funding for the program. The initial round provided $3.4 million in funds to two developments in Providence to assist the construction of 93 rental units, 38 of which are workforce assisted. The second round provides $5.9 million to four proposals.

Funded developments include:

  • Studley Building, Providence: Substantial rehabilitation of an existing building; will retain commercial use on ground floor while creating 65 rental housing units on floors two through six. There will be 14 workforce units comprised of two one-bedroom and 12 studio apartments. The workforce units will be restricted to 100% AMI.
  • Arctic Mill, West Warwick: Adaptive reuse of two separate historic textile mill buildings built in 1854 into a mixed-use complex comprised of both commercial space and residential rental apartments. The existing mill complex is situated along the Pawtuxet River in West Warwick, Rhode Island. 105 of the units will be rented at market rates, which are estimated at 98% AMI and 31 workforce units will be restricted to 80% AMI.
  • Strive Lofts, Providence: Located in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, includes the rehabilitation of an existing mill building with 56 residential units and two commercial suites with a ground floor parking garage. Twenty (20) WHIC units will be rented to tenants between 80% and 100% AMI and the remaining 36 units will be market rate.
  • Case Mead, Providence: Restricting nine existing market rate units as workforce housing in a currently occupied mixed-use building located in downtown Providence. The building was rehabbed in 2018 into a mixed-use building with ground floor retail and residential units on the upper floors. Seven (7) studio units and two one-bedroom units will be designated as eligible workforce housing units.