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Providence, RI – RIHousing, the state’s principal housing agency, has been selected as recipient of a national award for program innovation by the National Council of State Housing Agencies (NCSHA). The award for ‘Rental Housing: Encouraging New Construction’ honors RIHousing’s Workforce Housing Innovation Challenge (WHIC) Program, which seeks to expand the range of housing options for Rhode Islanders.
“To win such a prestigious national award is an incredible honor, especially as it comes from our peers who understand the challenges faced when working to create housing at a range of price points,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “The WHIC financing addresses the affordable housing needs of a segment of the state’s population, who are increasingly caught in the gap between rising market rents and ineligibility for other affordably assisted housing. Creating more affordable housing options for working Rhode Island families is essential to economic growth and development throughout Rhode Island.”
RIHousing’s 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. 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.
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. Currently, the state’s housing stock and building activity aren’t adequately addressing the 80% – 120% AMI housing market.
“There is a growing awareness of the challenges facing middle-income workers. Today’s high demand paired with low supply has driven housing prices up and out of reach for many middle-income workers, and many local governments are exploring and implementing strategies to stimulate the creation of workforce housing,” said Carol Ventura, Executive Director of RIHousing. “The WHIC program is one important tool that helps respond to the need for middle-income housing by filling a growing and significant gap in a tight housing market of rising rents that is being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To date, RIHousing has rolled out two funding cycles, receiving a total of 19 proposals requesting $25 million in financing. More than $9 million in WHIC funds have been awarded to six developments, helping to create 394 total units, 112 of which are considered ‘workforce’ homes.
The competitors for the national awards, which are given out annually at NCSHA’s national conference, were each of the 50 states’ Housing Finance Agencies plus four territories and districts. The NCSHA Annual Awards for Program Excellence was created to identify and elevate industry best practices as well as encourage continued Housing Finance Agency (HFA) innovation. In 2021, 33 HFAs submitted entries to the awards program. Awards were presented at NCSHA’s 50th Annual Conference, held virtually in September.