We believe cities are primarily for people, and should not be treated as museums or thoroughfares for cars. Providence has plenty of personal automobiles, and we believe our infrastructure choices since 1945 have unduly privileged cars over alternative transportation options that are more affordable and sustainable, at the expense of both present and future residents. We also believe that as Providence has historically been a city dominated by medium-density, mixed-use buildings, density and housing affordability are compatible with preserving our rich architectural legacy.
Providence, like much of the United States, is in a serious housing crisis. Rents and housing prices have both risen rapidly in recent years; with the nation’s second-highest year-over-year rent increases, average rent in Providence is reaching $2,200 (Zillow), making up 47% of the average Providence monthly household income of $4,700 (U.S. Census).This is driving up the number of unhoused residents, putting a disproportionate burden on low-income residents, and exacerbating displacement. There is no legal way to prevent people from moving to Providence, especially high-earners. The only viable long-term solution to address the rising cost of housing is to build more of it to accommodate everyone who wants to live here.
Furthermore, multiple studies have shown that for the United States to meet its climate goals and do its part to keep global temperature rise within certain limits, it will be necessary to reduce the amount that Americans drive, while also moving to clean energy and electric transportation. Transportation is the largest sector for greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island, at 40% of emissions. Building dense housing with limited parking and walking distance to amenities encourages more non-car trips, reducing emissions in Rhode Island’s most polluting sector. In addition to its benefits for residents and cities, we fight for dense housing near services because it is necessary to avoid the worst of the climate crisis.
Besides being necessary for reducing carbon emissions, a denser, walkable city is good for local businesses that rely on foot traffic, while allowing Providence to house everyone who wants to live here. Finally, more housing and more businesses can mean more tax revenues, and this is particularly important given our city’s financial challenges and existing tax burdens.
For all these reasons, we support the following initiatives:
- Building more housing. History, economics, and ongoing examples from around the world show that increasing the supply of housing lowers its overall cost. More housing gives tenants more options to live in safety and comfort, prevents new buyers from bidding up the cost of existing housing, and will enable people who want to stay or move here to do so. We support housing programs–public or private–and policy changes that will further these goals.
- Greater urban density. Providence is the only major city in Rhode Island, and should allow for zoning and housing that reflect that. This doesn’t mean forcing existing property owners to do anything on their own land, but it does mean allowing property owners to add more housing units either by building higher (“upzoning”) or building additional smaller units (including accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.) We don’t believe that owning a home in Providence gives someone the right to easily prevent new construction. Additionally, denser, walkable communities are good for small businesses and better for the environment, both because they reduce dependence on cars, provide a larger customer base, and leave more room for nature that would otherwise be taken over by suburban sprawl.
- Infrastructure for transportation that doesn’t require a personal automobile. Although many Providence residents are required or prefer to travel on foot, on bicycle, or on public transportation, our infrastructure system overwhelmingly privileges cars; many more would choose those options were they safer and more convenient. Therefore, we support creating a traffic calming measures and a more robust, connected network of safe bike lanes, funding RIPTA to enable reliable, practical, and accessible public transportation, and expanding public transportation routes in a manner that will further these goals. These policies will also benefit residents who still drive by reducing traffic congestion: every commuter who doesn’t drive leaves more room on the road for those who do.