NEWS

Spending priorities

Afforable housing highlighted at workshop on spending $42.6M in fed funds

By EMMA BARTLETT
Posted 2/1/22

By EMMA BARTLETT Approximately 60 people attended the City Council's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) workshop on Jan. 27 with nine out of 18 individuals stepping forward to say they would like to see funds spent on affordable housing. The goal of the

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NEWS

Spending priorities

Afforable housing highlighted at workshop on spending $42.6M in fed funds

Posted

Approximately 60 people attended the City Council’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) workshop on Jan. 27 with nine out of 18 individuals stepping forward to say they would like to see funds spent on affordable housing. The goal of the two-hour discussion was to hear the publics’ thoughts on how the city should spend the $42.6 million federal ARPA funds. 

“Everyone needs a decent place to live,” said Cranston resident Pauline Derosa.

State law requires that ten percent of a city’s housing stock must be long-term LMHI (low and moderate housing incentive), but Cranston stands at 5.48 percent. This means the city is nearly 1,500 units short of the minimum requirement for affordable housing. Lead can also be a safety hazard in homes and can cause brain damage and disabilities; according to RI Kids Count data, 20 out of the 718 Cranston children entering Kindergarten in 2022 had confirmed cases of lead poisoning.

Amy Rainone, who has been a Cranston resident for over 20 years, said the pandemic made clear the necessity of safe and affordable housing. With adults working remotely, children attending school virtually and people needing areas to shelter in place, it is important that this type of housing is available. Rainone advocated for hiring a consultant who would look for areas within the town that could be used for affordable housing. 

“This housing crisis we have needs to end and be dealt with in a way that is equitable and meets the demands we have,” said Harrison Tuttle, the Executive Director of Rhode Island Black Lives Matter PAC.

Tuttle advocated for racial equity, mental health and the importance of focusing the money on people of color since the pandemic affected them the most. 

According to tax accountant David DiMaio, ARPA funds can be used in four different ways:

l to respond to Covid or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, nonprofits or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality;

l premium pay for workers performing essential tasks during Covid or through providing grants to eligible employers with essential workers;

l for the provision of government services on revenue loss due to Covid in the most recent fiscal year;

l to make investments in water, sewer or broadband.

Of the $42.6 million the City of Cranston received from the federal government, $7.9 million has been used to fund revenue shortfalls in the FY budget ending on June 30, 2022. Money will also go toward funding a company to poll residents on how the city should spend the funds. All funds must be designated by 2024 and dispersed by 2026.

DiMaio shared an extensive list of project ideas that included clean up of waste water, community development, capital investments to public facilities, sewer facility upgrades and more. 

“I thought it [the workshop] was informative in the sense that they did a good job laying out the process and what the money is supposed to be used for,” said Karen Rosenberg, co-chair of Cranston Forward which is a group of Cranston residents who seek to ensure that people are engaged by city government and that the government responds to their needs when it comes to creating policy. She thought DiMaio’s presentation on the money guidelines made it clear to workshop attendees.

In addition to the strong focus on safe and affordable housing, Claire Stadtmueller and Shelia Resseger represented 5G Free Rhode Island, a group that educates communities and public officials about the harm of 5G radiation and said for safety and economic viability that the city should designate ARPA funds to installing broadband that is FTTP (fiber to the premises) and not wireless since studies show 5G has harmful radiation; FTTP is designed for residential use.

Two members, Sarah Lee and Steve Stycos, of the Cranston Neighborhood Planting Project requested ARPA funds to increase the tree allotment that the city allocates to the Cranston Neighborhood Planting Project. The program currently receives $10,000 which pays for 40 trees and would like to see the funds doubled. The residents said that the trees cool down the neighborhoods during the summer, and that – in response to affordable housing – if more houses are built in crowded areas, this will raise the level of ground water which can create increased flooding in basements. If more houses are built, planted trees can absorb the excess water runoff and reduce flooding. 

Councilwoman Lammis Vargas said she expected affordable housing to be the common denominator.

“I hope to continue to hear from the city residents, business owners and stakeholders,” said Vargas. 

She noted the importance of community engagement and that if people cannot make it to the workshops, then they should call their council members. She looks forward to the second and final workshop on Feb. 10.

“There’s one thing we all agree with – working on providing affordable housing,” said Councilwoman Aniece Germain. 

Germain said looking at the environment is key and to be careful about where the housing is built to ensure that people are being given the quality of life they deserve along with respect and dignity.

The City Council’s next ARPA workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 10. As of right now, it is unknown if the workshop will be held on Zoom or in person.

spending, housing

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  • aentrup

    The statements about 5G should not be framed as facts. Current scientific understanding is that there is no evidence of harm from 5G radiation. The largest research review of the topic (Karipides et al 2021) found no harm in a meta analysis of over 300 research papers. It would be appropriate to explore the topic in a separate article, but to present it as fact is irresponsible.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41370-021-00297-6

    Saturday, February 5 Report this