House OKs bill to enable construction of ‘missing middle’ of Rhode Island’s housing market

Legislation would make 3-, 4-unit residential construction economically feasible

 

STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. June S. Speakman to address the “missing middle” of Rhode Island’s housing market by making three- and four-unit dwellings subject to residential building codes rather than commercial codes.

The bill (2024-H 7893A) is intended to spur construction of new small apartment buildings, such as the triple-deckers that have long been ubiquitous in many Rhode Island neighborhoods, but have not been built for decades because they have been subject to commercial building codes that make them onerously expensive.

“Buildings with three or four apartments are very different from huge office buildings, public places or 40-story apartment high rises, but they currently are governed by the same commercial building codes,” said Representative Speakman, who serves as chairwoman of the House’s Commission on Housing Affordability. “This bill addresses the needs of the missing middle in the housing market. Duplexes, triplexes and four-unit buildings are desirable and affordable for renters, while also providing homeownership opportunities for working-class Rhode Islanders who use the rental income to support the cost of their home. Our state needs this change to make multifamily housing construction possible again.”

The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, has the support of the Rhode Island Builders Association, and has been approved by the state building commissioner and the state fire marshal. It would ensure continued safety by requiring that Rhode Island’s building codes for three- and four- unit buildings adhere to standards used in many places worldwide, the International Residential Code.

Construction of these small structures according to the residential code is less expensive because the materials used are less costly, more variable and easier to assemble and use Design standards are more flexible, allowing the owners more control over the layout and aesthetics of the structure.

In addition to helping to address the state’s housing crisis, the bill could also be a significant boost for the local economy and the creation of construction jobs. While large construction firms, adept at using the commercial code, may continue to focus their efforts on larger commercial projects, small, local businesses that focus on residential construction would have new opportunities. Those businesses are more likely to be from groups that are underrepresented in the commercial construction industry, Chairwoman Speakman added.

Additionally, small multifamily buildings are most consistent with land use patterns in many Rhode Island communities, and can be constructed in already developed neighborhoods, as well as in areas zoned for higher density.

“Building codes that recognize small multifamily buildings as exactly what they are, residential construction, will go a long way in encouraging the construction of the housing we so desperately need,” said Chairwoman Speakman.

 

 

The Supreme Court is getting rid of a Trump-era ban on "bump stocks." The court ruled Friday that the firearm accessory that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire more quickly can't be included in a 1934 law banning machine guns. The decision was 6-3 on ideological lines, striking down a regulation imposed during the Trump administration. Despite the ruling, bump stocks remain illegal in 18 states.       The Supreme Court is not yet ruling on Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity. The court did not make a decision on the consequential case today, but may do so on June 20th when its next opinions are released. The case impacts some of Trump's pending cases, including his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump argues he is immune from prosecution because his actions fell under official conduct that should be protected, and was not a private act.       Floridians can expect even more rain today after days of severe weather and flooding. Non-stop rain has drenched parts of the southern half of the state for days now -- including Miami. Governor Ron DeSantis already declared a state of emergency. Thunderstorm activity in the region is expected to subside by the weekend, but forecasters say flash flooding and urban flooding will remain possible through Saturday.       Kate, Princess of Wales, says she is making "good progress" in her treatment for cancer. In a rare statement Friday, the British royal said she is still undergoing chemotherapy and that she has "a few more months" of treatment remaining. She also announced that she will be attending a military parade Saturday to mark King Charles the Third's birthday. This will be her first official public appearance since she revealed she has cancer.       Ukraine is rejecting Russia's demands to bring the war between the two countries to an end. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would end the war if Ukraine agreed to certain conditions. Those include Kyiv [[ KEEV ]] dropping its ambitions to join NATO, pulling out troops from four Ukrainian provinces claimed by Moscow. The proposal from Russia came just a day after the U.S. and Ukraine agreed to a new ten-year security agreement.       The USA cricket team is continuing to make history. The team has advanced to the next stage of the men's T20 Cricket World Cup after its match against Ireland was rained out in Florida Friday. The point earned by the USA due to the game being called off meant the team qualified for the Super Eight stage of the tournament. The USA will now be placed in a group of four of the final eight teams, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semifinal round.