NEWS

Affordable housing proposals continued after heated debate, lengthy public comment

By DANIEL A. KITTREDGE
Posted 10/22/20

By DANIEL KITTREDGE A pair of proposals related to affordable housing - including a new prohibition aimed a curbing source of income discrimination for renters - were continued following an at-times charged debate and comments from a litany of public

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NEWS

Affordable housing proposals continued after heated debate, lengthy public comment

Posted

A pair of proposals related to affordable housing – including a new prohibition aimed a curbing source of income discrimination for renters – were continued following an at-times charged debate and comments from a litany of public speakers during the Oct. 15 meeting of the City Council’s Ordinance Committee.

The first measure, an amendment to the city’s ordinances titled “Fair Housing Practices,” seeks to “ban housing discrimination faced by prospective tenants who rely upon lawful sources of income such as housing vouchers, veterans benefits, child support, social security, SSI, or other rental assistance programs,” according to a statement from one of its sponsored, Ward 3 Councilman John Donegan. All four of the Democratic council members – including Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos, Ward 1 Councilwoman Lammis Vargas and Ward 2 Councilwoman Aniece Germain – cosponsored the measure.

The second proposal, sponsored by Donegan and cosponsored by Vargas and Germain, seeks to reestablish the city’s Affordable Housing Commission. Part of the body’s charge, according to the language of the ordinance amendment, would be to “ensure an institutional commitment to the monitoring of housing affordability and the provision of long-term affordability in the city commensurate with the researched need.”

Consideration of both measures was delayed until the Ordinance Committee’s Nov. 15 meeting, but not before a heated debate over members of the public who wished to comment on the matter would be heard. Like all recent council proceedings, the meeting was held over Zoom.

Council Vice President Michael Favicchio, chairman of the ordinance panel, said he felt having a hearing on the “Fair Housing Practices” proposal prior to additional study – which he said should include a fiscal note and a report from legal counsel, among other components – was “putting the cart before the horse.” Members of the public, he said, would be able to comment when the hearing itself took place.

“I just think this is being rushed because there’s an election in three weeks … I think it’s being done for the wrong reason and pushed prematurely,” he said.

Donegan, however, pushed back strongly.

“You’re purposefully trying to stifle public comment. This is outrageous,” he said. Other council members, including Stycos and Germain, urged the chairman to allow comment.

After several minutes of debate, Ward 5 Councilman Chris Paplauskas, who had initially made a motion to continue the “Fair Housing Practices” ordinance amendment, withdrew the motion to allow for public comment to proceed.

More than a dozen speakers addressed the committee during the comment period, including representatives of local nonprofit organizations, some candidates for local offices and Robert Coupe, director of the Cranston Housing Authority.

“I don’t believe anyone should be discriminated against or looked down upon for needing help,” said Brandon Potter, the Democratic candidate for House District 16, in support of the ordinance.

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