§ 45-53-10. Repurposing of vacant schools for affordable housing program.
(a) There is hereby established the repurposing of school buildings for an affordable housing program (the “program”). The program shall be administered by the secretary of housing as set forth herein.
(b) The purpose of the program shall be to provide guidance and assistance in the repurposing of vacant and unused school buildings as identified and existing as of July 1 of each year, commencing October 1, 2022.
(c) The department of elementary and secondary education (the “department”) shall, commencing on October 1, 2022, on an annual basis, provide to the speaker of the house, the president of the senate, and the secretary of housing a list of all school buildings that have been abandoned or are no longer being used by a school district.
(d)(1) In the case of a municipality that has less than ten percent (10%) low- or moderate-income housing as defined in § 45-53-3, the municipality shall provide the department with a complete list of buildings abandoned or no longer being used by the school district for the purposes of conducting a feasibility assessment to repurpose the building as affordable housing. In the case of a municipality that has greater than ten percent (10%) low- and moderate-income housing as defined in § 45-53-3, the municipality may offer to the department a list of buildings abandoned or no longer being utilized by the school district by an affirmative vote of a majority of both the governing body of the school board and the municipality, and have voted to be willing to offer the former school building for a feasibility assessment for use by the program. In the case of buildings being abandoned or no longer used by a charter school that owns the school building in question, an affirmative vote of the governing body of the charter school and/or mayoral academy shall be required. The department shall also include and identify in the list those school buildings that the department anticipates will become abandoned or no longer used by a school district within the next six (6) months following the issuance of the list.
(2) The secretary of housing shall conduct an assessment, in conjunction with a task force comprised of the Rhode Island housing and mortgage finance corporation, the department of environmental management, the department of health, a fire marshal, the local building inspector, and the local planning office, into its feasibility to be repurposed as affordable housing, and the anticipated costs of renovating the building for that intended purpose. This assessment shall be completed within one hundred and fifty (150) days after being notified by the task force of the availability of a vacant building available pursuant to this section.
(3) Once a building is determined by the task force to be appropriate for repurposing as affordable housing, the office of housing and community development shall actively identify and invite prospective developers to submit an application to the program, with the goal of repurposing the building into affordable housing.
(e) The office of housing and community development shall maintain on its website a separate page related to the repurposing of buildings for the affordable housing program. This website shall contain a listing of all buildings for which a feasibility assessment was conducted and the outcome of the assessment, including a general statement of the condition of the property, an estimate of the types of renovations, if any, that must be performed to the property, a copy of the feasibility assessment, and an estimate of the costs thereof. Provided, it shall be made clear on the website that these are estimates to repurpose used buildings, and that neither the state, the corporation, the division, the commission, or any instrumentality of the state or of a municipality or school district shall be liable for any estimates that are incorrect.
(f) The office of housing and community development shall seek to assist and facilitate persons and developers who or that want to repurpose former buildings as affordable housing. This assistance may include, but need not be limited to, technical and financial assistance, all to assist in the repurposing of the school building.
(g) The Rhode Island department of education shall promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation and enforcement of this section.
(h) The secretary of housing shall provide an annual report on or before December 31, commencing with calendar year 2023, including, but not limited to, the number of schools that are vacant and include a status report of any development and/or feasibility to repurpose a vacant building.
(i) As used herein, the term “affordable housing” means housing that meets the definition for low- or moderate-income housing in § 45-53-3.
History of Section.
P.L. 2022, ch. 384, § 1, effective June 30, 2022; P.L. 2022, ch. 385, § 1, effective June 30, 2022.