RI’s lack of affordable homes: how bad is it?
Every fall, children across Rhode Island wait with nervous excitement to see their friends and be welcomed back by their favorite teachers. Although this is a well-worn tradition for many, a lack of affordable homes is forcing a growing number of children to change schools and leave their friends behind.
Their families, faced with rent increases, are left with no choice but to move — only to realize they can’t find affordable homes anywhere in the state.
How bad is it? According to a 2016 HousingWorks RI study, 3,500 housing units must be built each year through 2025 to simply meet the state’s current need. Compare this to the 1,226 residential building permits issued that same year and the situation quickly comes into focus.
In fact, the same study found 40 percent of Rhode Island families spend over 30 percent of their income on rent. This means the Ocean State has the highest percentage of cost burdened families in New England.
Simply put, Rhode Islanders can’t afford to live in their homes.
Children pay the price
How does Rhode Island’s lack of affordable homes effect a child’s ability to learn? This insecurity puts an unfair strain on children, often causing social problems, psychological difficulties, and affecting every facet of their lives — including their education.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers administered a standardized test during the 2016-2017 academic year, they found that 41 percent of Rhode Island third-graders who remained at the same school met reading and writing expectations, whereas only 23 percent of transfer students met these benchmarks.
To understand why this is, let’s try a short visualization: Imagine you’re a child — it’s the middle of the year and you transfer to a new school. Your family is staying with friends because your parents can no longer afford the rent. Your entire life has been upended; you had to leave everything you know behind and you’re not even sure how long you’ll be in this new school — now, imagine having to sit in the classroom, give the teacher your undivided attention, and focus on your education.
Doesn’t that seem like a lot to ask of an eight-year-old child?
Investing in RI’s future means investing in affordable homes
In 2016, United Way of Rhode Island (UWRI) advocated for the Housing Opportunity Bond, better known as Question 7. In passing it, Rhode Islanders provided $50 million for the construction and rehabilitation of more than 800 affordable homes across the state.
Even with this victory, the state must still find a consistent funding stream to continue investing in affordable homes. That’s why on September 18, a coalition of Rhode Island nonprofits, including UWRI, launched Homes RI — a campaign that not only highlights the urgent need for affordable homes but also calls on elected officials to act.
This campaign urges our elected leaders to support Rhode Island families by investing in homes they can afford. “Housing that is affordable and safe is critical for all Rhode Islanders,” said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI. “Without it, our children’s education… is at risk.”
For far too long the children of Rhode Island have had their education affected by something completely out of their control. By working together, the nonprofits behind Homes RI will continue advocating for increased access to affordable housing. In doing so, they’re also advocating for an investment in Rhode Island’s future by ensuring children have the stability needed to concentrate on their education.
For more information on the Homes RI campaign, visit www.homesri.org.
The nonprofit coalition behind the Homes RI campaign
Housing Network of RI, Local Initiatives Support Corporation RI, HousingWorks RI, Neighbors 4 Revitalization at the CYC, RI Community Action Association, R.I. Center for Justice, R.I. Homeless Advocacy Project, RI KIDS COUNT, RI Interfaith Coalition, RI Coalition for the Homeless, United Way of RI.