State officials celebrate Shekarchi housing package in Warwick

Signing ceremony held at former Aldrich Junior High School slated to become 75-unit senior housing complex

By: and - July 5, 2023 6:01 pm

Gov. Dan McKee signs legislation that forms part of Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi’s legislative package at the former Aldrich Junior High School in Warwick on Wednesday, July 5, 2023. (Photo by Kevin G. Andrade/Rhode Island Current)

WARWICK — Even the blistering sun of a Rhode Island July could not melt optimism and surrounding a new beginning for affordable housing development in the Ocean State on Wednesday.

Bill promotes housing development close to public transit hubs

Gov. Dan McKee signed five bills from the 13-bill legislative package passed in the last legislative session with the backing Speaker Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi in front of the old Aldrich Junior High School on Post Road. The school is set to become a 75-unit affordable senior housing complex as a result of zoning reforms and transit-oriented development incentives because it is located on a bus route.

“Historically, our state has underinvested in housing,” McKee said during remarks before the bill signing in front of the school. “But we know money is only part of the equation.”

The housing package originally included 14 bills but one —a proposed expansion of the usage of accessory dwelling units such as garage apartments, in-law apartments, and guest homes, sponsored by Rep. June Speakman, a Warren Democrat — failed to pass out of the General Assembly. Two others were sent to legislative study commissions and did not require McKee’s signature.

One of the five bills McKee signed was legislation (H6084) sponsored by Pawtucket Democrat Rep. Leonela Felix launching a pilot funding program to increase density and encourage residential development around major transportation centers.

Housing and transit advocates rode Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) Route 1 from Kennedy Square in downtown Providence to the ceremony at Aldrich School to show their support for the package. 

Rhode Island Housing Secretary Stefan Pryor said the bills represent only the beginning, though with 1,400 housing units having been approved statewide in the last month, he said the package is beginning to have an impact. 

The former Aldrich Junior High School on Post Road in Warwick, slated to become a 75-unit senior housing complex, was the site of a ceremony Wednesday, July 5, 2023, with Gov. Dan McKee signing a package of housing legislation aimed at spurring residential development statewide. (Jocelyn Jackson/Rhode Island Current)

“This is a smart package and it’s an effective package,” Pryor said. “And we need to do more going forward.”

The entire package of housing initiatives will increase the number of affordable housing units in the state. Melina Lodge, executive director of the Housing Network of Rhode Island, highlighted that the production of housing in the 1980s was upwards of 75,000 housing units annually. 

“I think these [bills] are really important first steps,” Lodge said. “This is a crisis now but we’ve been building to this moment for 30 years.

“This moment is the result of decisions made in that time,” she continued. “Given how long we’ve been building to this moment, I can’t imagine we’ll get to where we want to be quickly.”



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Jocelyn Jackson
Jocelyn Jackson

A senior journalism major at Roger Williams University, Jocelyn Jackson was the editor-in-chief of the Hawks’ Herald student newspaper. She previously served as the paper’s opinions editor for the school newspaper. She is scheduled to receive her B.A. in journalism in December.

Kevin G. Andrade
Kevin G. Andrade

Kevin G. Andrade previously covered education, housing and human services for Rhode Island Current.