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Fears Over Displacement, As Providence Mayor Wages War On Blight

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A program designed to combat foreclosed, blighted properties in Providence is drawing the ire of some local residents.

A program designed to combat foreclosed, blighted properties in Providence is drawing the ire of some local residents. 

Elorza’s ambitious plan seeks to eliminate roughly 600 foreclosed and abandoned properties in the city, mostly through redevelopment, though some will be razed.

The initiative offers various legal tools to expedite receivership, keep foreclosed properties out of tax sales, and provide funding to get properties back into livable condition.

But housing advocates worry the program will leave low-income residents in the cold.

The advocacy group Direct Action for Rights and Equality, or DARE, protested at City Hall on Thursday, contending that as homes are rehabbed, rents will spike in areas hardest hit by foreclosures. The group said that will push low-income residents out of their neighborhoods.

DARE spokesman Christopher Samih-Rotondo called for the city to turn at least half of the properties into affordable housing, as designated by federal guidelines.

“They could certainly advocate for those receivership properties to come out on the other end as affordable housing, and we think the city has an incentive to do that because the community that they represent needs affordable housing,” said Samih-Rotondo.

Providence officials say the EveryHome program will help residents by reducing the blight from abandoned buildings. And they say they are committed to creating affordable housing through other programs.

DARE has asked the city to create a community advisory board to oversee the EveryHome program. And, in a related issue, the group pushed for the mayor to guarantee that some of the construction and development work through the EveryHome program be done by local women and minority-owned businesses.

City officials said they notify minority businesses as soon development work is available. However, Mayor Elorza's office said contractors for the EveryHome construction projects are often chosen by the receiver in charge of each property, not the city.

DARE activists gathered at Providence City Hall, for a Valentine's-themed protest; saying they were 'heart-broken' over Mayor Elorza's EveryHome program
DARE activists gathered at Providence City Hall, for a Valentine's-themed protest; saying they were 'heart-broken' over Mayor Elorza's EveryHome program