On Friday, HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University released two bodies of work: the 2023 Housing Fact Book and the Rhode Island Zoning Atlas. Both resources seek to shed light on the state’s housing affordability crisis.
The 2023 Housing Fact Book is an annual publication of housing trends across the state and its municipalities. This year’s Housing Fact Book breaks the state down into seven regions, including Providence, North and South Rhode Island and East Providence County, based on new data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020.
According to the fact book, there has been a 72 percent increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness since 2019. Through this past August, there was a 43 percent increase in eviction filings and a 76 percent increase in foreclosures in the state since 2021.
The fact book also found that housing has increasingly become less affordable in Rhode Island. In 2022, the median household income of Rhode Island homeowners was just under $100,000.
According to the fact book, more than a third of Rhode Island households are burdened by housing costs, meaning that they dedicate over 30% of their income to paying for their housing. The report found that this burden falls heaviest on Black and Hispanic homeowner households.
Now, in only one out of Rhode Island’s 39 municipalities is the annual income needed to purchase a home less than $100,000 — Central Falls. But even in Central Falls, homes remain unaffordable: The median single family home price in the city is $273,000, while the median household income is $40,235.
The fact book also contextualizes the housing situation within federal funding and new laws passed during the 2023 Rhode Island General Assembly legislative session. This legislation included the housing package which mostly targeted municipal planning and aimed to increase housing production statewide to address the housing crisis, The Herald previously reported.
In March 2021, Rhode Island received $1.13 billion in State Fiscal Recovery Funds from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Plan Act. From the 2022 to 2024 fiscal years, $321 million of those funds were allocated to the state’s housing needs. Of the $191 million remaining for the 2024 fiscal year, around $112 million is budgeted for increasing housing development.
“In the ‘2023 Housing Fact Book,’ we see a number of areas where deployment of federal funds helped to stem the pandemic’s effect on housing insecurities and offered a temporary pause to some of the worst outcomes,” Brenda Clement, executive director of HWRI, wrote in a statement accompanying the release of the fact book. “But we know we need more healthy, affordable homes for all Rhode Islanders.”
HWRI is also a part of the National Zoning Atlas collaborative, a group of researchers who aim to increase understanding of U.S. zoning codes through digitization. On Friday, HWRI launched the RIZA, an interactive map which “provides an unprecedented look” at zoning across the state. This is the fourth statewide zoning atlas in the nation to launch, according to a statement released by HWRI.
“We understand that zoning is not the only factor to unlocking more production of housing,” Clement wrote. “But we have understood for many years that zoning is a key piece to this puzzle.”