Rep. Felix bill would promote transit-oriented development as part of housing package

STATE HOUSE – As part of House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi’s 14-bill package of legislation to address Rhode Island’s housing crisis, Rep. Leonela Felix has introduced a bill to promote denser development around transit hubs. That, advocates say, would provide housing units for different income levels within walking distance of public transportation hubs to reduce traffic, air pollution and carbon emissions.

“Promoting denser development around transit hubs is not only about creating affordable housing, but also about building more sustainable and equitable communities,” said Representative Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket). “By investing in mixed-use developments near public transportation, this pilot program will help address housing shortages, reduce traffic, improve air quality, and move us closer to achieving our carbon emission targets. Accessible housing and reliable public transportation are essential components of creating equitable and sustainable communities.”

The bill (2023-H 6084) would create a pilot program to fund projects that build dense, mixed-use development around transit centers like train stations and bus hubs. In order to qualify for the program, a municipality must have developable land or properties within a one-quarter mile radius of a regional mobility hub or a one-eighth mile radius of a frequent transit stop. That way, advocates say, residents of the new housing would be able to get around without needing to drive everywhere. Reducing the number of cars on the road reduces traffic and pot holes, improves air quality and helps the state comply with carbon emission targets.

The bill will be heard at the House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing hearing Thursday, March 16.

The state already has some transit-oriented development planned around the new train station and transit hub in Pawtucket and Central Falls. Representative Felix hopes to use that as a model for further development.

“This pilot program is a crucial step towards promoting a healthier lifestyle for all Rhode Islanders by prioritizing the development of sustainable neighborhoods that are accessible, affordable, and prioritize community well-being,” Representative Felix said. “Let's work together toward creating vibrant, walkable communities that benefit everyone.”

The legislation is one of the 14 bills that Speaker Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), Representative Felix and others are proposing to bring down housing costs. Nine of the 14 bills will be heard at the House Committee on Municipal Government and Housing Thursday.

 

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