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PBN: Affordable housing is more than an inexpensive place to live

The inability of people – especially young people starting out in their careers with less than median salaries and high college debt – to afford a place to live can deprive a region of its economic lifeblood.

Barbara Fields, the subject of this week’s cover story Q&A, knows this reality intimately. She is the executive director of the R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp., known to most everyone as R.I. Housing.

While the issue of affordable housing is a complex one, Ms. Fields has a pretty simple answer: Build, build, build.

Data from a 2016 study by HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University supports that solution. From 2008-2012, 40.1 percent of all Rhode Island households were considered cost burdened, that is they spent more than 30 percent of their annual gross income on rent/mortgage, insurance, taxes and utilities. That total represented an increase of 44.4 percent from the number of cost-burdened households in 2000.

The 2017 Housing Fact Book from HousingWorks makes the point a different way. Households earning the state’s median income of $56,852 in 2016 could afford the median-priced single-family home in only four of Rhode Island’s ­municipalities.

Recent news about the rising prices of homes in the Ocean State makes it unlikely that trend is retreating.

If the state’s leaders are serious about creating an environment for future economic growth, they should put affordable housing on the short list of important issues to tackle. Because if they don’t, Rhode Island may find fewer talented people wanting to come here to work and live.

Courtesy of Providence Business News 

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