Coalition of Groups Oppose 20 Year Tax Break for Providence Project Ahead of Council Vote
Thursday, October 04, 2018
Letter Sent in Opposition
The following was sent to Council leaders ahead of the vote:
Dear President Salvatore & Members of the Council
We are community organizations with memberships based in Providence’s low-income communities of color in partnership with advocates and newly elected city officials. For over a decade we have demanded equity in our city's economic development policies. Yet Providence continues to promote public subsidy in private developments that both threaten to displace long-term neighborhood residents and take resources away from our communities without tangible and lasting community benefits.
Given the dramatic shortage of genuinely affordable housing in our city, as well as life-sustaining jobs, especially for Providence’s low-income families living in communities of color, we’re asking you to return the proposed TSA for Steeple Street RI, LLC to the Finance Committee for further review. Though this letter focuses on one specific TSA, the criticisms and recommendations below apply to past and current TSAs agreed to by the Providence city council, as well as future deals.
The TSA for Steeple Street RI, LLC demands more concerted input from residents who will be disproportionately impacted by the loss of public revenue, which is desperately needed to repair roadways and schools, fund recreational programs and the city’s many waning public amenities, as well as support new initiatives shepherded by those who currently live, work, and raise their families in the so-called “Creative Capitol.”
Though the second vote for a Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) for Steeple Street RI, LLC was postponed, the initial vote in favor is very concerning. A major cause of concern with this particular agreement is its extreme length – 20 years of foregone property tax revenue! Why would this much time be necessary for the developers to realize sufficient profit to pay their fair share of taxes? If the development isn’t presumed to be profitable enough to cover property taxes for 20 years, perhaps it isn’t a wise investment for the residents of Providence.
We have a number of amendments to this agreement that would make it broadly beneficial to the residents of Providence this council represents:
Real affordable housing – By that, we mean housing that is affordable to the people who live in the neighborhoods of Providence. Affordable housing is often defined as housing that costs no more than 30% of a household’s monthly income. When we have thousands of families in Providence living on less than $20,000 per year, we must ensure there is sufficient housing that only costs 30% of their monthly income! By contrast, developers and the City use the “Providence Metro Statistical Area” median income of $50,000/year, based on figures that use much of the state of Rhode Island, and parts of Massachusetts. Therefore, their “affordable” housing is well out of reach of the majority of Providence residents!
Inclusionary zoning laws, which mandate a percentage of residential units built in any development receiving public subsidies be affordable to low-moderate income residents, can ensure that low-income families benefit from what is often luxury housing and commercial development. In addition, linkage fees can be charged per square foot of development and designated to a housing trust fund, designated for construction, rehabilitation, and operation of housing affordable to low-income residents. Both of these practices are successfully implemented as nearby as Boston, as well as many other cities around the country. In fact, the City of Providence already includes linkage fees that are directed to Parks and Recreation for many of the more recent TSAs!
Local Hiring- through effective enforcement of the First Source ordinance, including current TSAs that are not in compliance, the removal of barriers to employment for city residents with criminal records, and the implementation of hiring rules that target disadvantaged census tracts in the city, any public subsidy of private development will create family-sustaining, long-term jobs for current Providence residents.
A commitment to the utilization of Responsible Contractors, including contractors that have not been found to have committed wage theft or employee misclassification in the past five years (either by settlement or by adjudication), contractors who have not been the subject of repeated, serious OSHA violations, contractors that employ bona fide apprenticeship programs which have the opportunity to turn a one time job into a life time career, and residency and diversity requirements as follows: each contractor shall demonstrably perform 15% of workhours by Providence residents, 20% by people of color, 7% by women and 5% by veterans.
We look forward to discussing our proposed amendments with you through the public input process at the Finance Committee as well as meetings with our city council members.
DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality)
Teresa Guaba, Neighbors for Revitalization
Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris, Ward 11
City Councilor-Elect Ward 12 Kat Kerwin
City Councilor Elect Ward 13 Rachel Miller
Carpenters Local Union 330
Dannie Ritchie, MD, MPH, Founder, Community Health Innovations of Rhode Island
Dwayne Keys, Providence Resident & Proprietor, D Key Solution
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