According to the city’s Planning Department, Cranston is close to slipping below its 15 percent requirement on affordable full-time rental units. Planning Director Jason Pezzullo said …
According to the city’s Planning Department, Cranston is close to slipping below its 15 percent requirement on affordable full-time rental units. Planning Director Jason Pezzullo said unofficial data shows 15.2 percent of the city’s rental units are affordable. If Cranston falls below the requirement, it opens the city to comprehensive permits.
The comprehensive permit process allows for additional density and waives local zoning regulations as long as 25 percent of units that a developer proposes are affordable. At the City Council’s November Ordinance Committee meeting, the planning staff described comprehensive permits as “an aggressive affordable housing action where an applicant can come in and essentially put the city’s zoning aside and build the way they want.”
Pezullo described the comprehensive permit as “one stop shopping” since a developer only needs to go before the Planning Commission; there is no Zoning Board of Review or City Council involvement. The applicant can try to make a case that the city does not meet its fair share of affordable housing and that the city has no plan. If the Planning Commission decided to deny a comprehensive permit, then the applicant could go to the State Housing Appeals Board (SHAB) which would make a ruling in favor of the applicant or city. Pezzullo added that there is a “friendly” comprehensive permit which can be used as a tool even if a city is exempt.
Affordable housing refers to housing that is deemed affordable to those who have a household income that meets or falls below the average rate. The majority of the city’s affordable rental units house the elderly. Pezzullo explained Monday that the city does not meet its 10 percent requirement for affordable homeownership stock. However, since Cranston meets its affordable full-time rental requirement, the city meets the state’s standard. Still, the city is focusing on affordable housing since it is a few decimal points above the standard.
“The more housing and rentals we do without an affordable component, the closer we get to becoming nonconforming with state’s fair share,” said Pezzullo.
In a Planning Department PowerPoint on affordable housing stock, data shows that in Cranston, 5.48 percent (1,805 units) of the city’s year-round housing stock are affordable; an additional 1,524 units are needed to meet the state’s 10 percent requirement. Data based on the last census shows 16.6 percent of rentals are affordable, however, newest available data suggests the city has approximately 11,710 rental housing units where 1,785 are affordable which brings the 16.6 percent down to 15.2 percent. Pezzullo said there are other aspects of how housing flips around that may only be captured in the census that organizations like HousingWorks RI or the Planning Department may not see. He said the city should have precise numbers on where it stands in the next couple of months.
Cranston’s population of 81,254, and HousingWorks RI data shows that there are 30,481 households in the city with a median household income of $72,017. Sixty-seven percent of individuals own a house and 33 percent rent units within Cranston. Of the city’s housing stock, 62 percent is single family and 38 percent is multi-family.
HousingWorks RI also recorded that 29 percent of homeowners and 48 percent of renters are cost burden. The median price of a Cranston single family home is $284,900, which equates to a monthly mortgage payment of $2,003. Overall, the yearly income needed to afford this home is $80,124. Meanwhile, the average two-bedroom rental payment is $1,650, which means the income needed to afford this is $66,000.
Pezzullo said the city has recently done more for affordable housing than it’s done in decades – mentioning the Legion Bowl and 747 Pontiac Avenue projects that “move the needle” in addressing the need for affordable housing. He added that the housing market is changing and many developers want to do multi-family units since there is very little land for single-family subdivisions.
According to Pezzullo, affordable housing can be a controversial topic since individuals have preconceived notions of what the units are and who’s living there. In the past, the city has had projects in the past that proposed affordable housing and didn’t move forward. Pezzullo said he is pleased with what the council has done so far.
“Things are changing for the better, and that’s very heartening to see,” Pezzullo said.
As for next steps to address affordable housing, the Planning Department has already talked to council members about discussing legislative priorities come the new term. Pezzullo would like to schedule an affordable housing workshop in January.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here