Housing Reform Package Under Consideration by Rhode Island General Assembly

The Rhode Island House Speaker has introduced a package of 14 bills intended to ease housing construction without stepping on any toes at the local level.

2 minute read

March 8, 2023, 6:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Rhode Island Capitol Building

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Rhode Island House Speaker Joe Shekarchi recently unveiled a legislative package of 14 bills to “bolster much-needed housing development across the state without circumventing local control over zoning and planning,” according to an article by Eli Sherman and Ted Nesi for WPRI. According to the article, the legislative package attempts to walk a tightrope between implementing effective housing policy action at the state level while retaining local control over zoning codes and land use regulation. Other states, like Oregon and California, have tended more toward state preemption of local zoning powers.

“‘Nothing in this package forces communities to build more affordable housing and none of this legislation circumvents local decision-making authority,’ Shekarchi, D-Warwick, told reporters during a briefing on the legislative package,” according to the article.

In evidence of the tenuous political ground the speaker is attempting to navigate with the housing reform package, the briefing was attended by Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns Executive Director Ernie Almonte, who rose to voice support “conceptual” for the package, but stopped short of fully endorsing the bills.

More details on the specific measures proposed in each of the 14 bills can be found in a press release from the Office of the Speaker. Among the items included are streamlined permitting processes (H6081 and H6061), two new categories for allowing accessory dwelling units by right (H6082), and a new requirement for all municipal land use approvals to be consistent with future land use maps (H6085), among others.

Friday, March 3, 2023 in WPRI

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