HousingWorks RI - Devising an Opportunity Investment Strategy for East Providence

HousingWorks RI (HWRI)


As a Phase I of its Strategic Housing Plan, the City of East Providence asked HousingWorks RI (HWRI) to apply a methodology devised by the Public and Affordable Housing Research Corporation (PAHRC), which employs the “The Influence of Place,”1 to examine the housing investment possibilities of the City of East Providence’s Community Development Office.

The report that follows is HWRI’s summation of that effort.

The intent is to provide linkages to areas for further examination by the City based on the outcomes of the findings as they relate to resources for opportunities related to jobs, transit, health, and education. For several years now, numerous scholars and research organizations have been connecting the dots between housing and life’s outcomes. Various organizations, such as Enterprise Community Partners 2 and AARP3, have published indicators that are customizable to one’s address in order to review how your location fares. From access to jobs and healthcare, to neighborhood walkability and safety, this can sometimes be framed in the context of “opportunity” as it relates to ensuring better outcomes and life achievements, especially for low-income households and communities of color.

Recognizing the impact of one’s zip code on health outcomes and longevity, the field of public health developed the term “Social Determinants of Health” to describe the intersectionality of one’s neighborhood and environment; health and healthcare; social interactions and community; education; and economic stability.

Given this trend and the links to housing, HousingWorks RI (HWRI) at Roger Williams University has been employing the Social Determinants of Health in portraying Rhode Island’s housing affordability challenges since 2016. For example, the Housing Fact Book, HWRI’s principal publication, has highlighted the connections between housing conditions and school absenteeism, as well as showcased the impact excess housing costs can have on the local economy due to the decreased purchasing power of households.

Setting the stage for the next phase of a full Strategic Housing Plan can lead to a full discussion of a range of housing types, settlement patterns, and the housing market changes that have resulted from the evolution of the labor market. The City has significant opportunities from which to work, including the redevelopment of 300 acres of waterfront that used to house nearly 80 petroleum tanks, in the East Providence Special Development District. Beyond these physical assets, in speaking to a non-profit and for-profit developer, HWRI heard very positive assessments of the City’s efforts, which are captured in the Executive Summary below.

The report is organized into three chapters that reflect the City’s dominant geographies, referenced in the report as neighborhoods: Rumford, Central, and Riverside. While organized by these areas, each chapter takes a deeper dive across the relevant Census Tracts into the factors related to the application of the PAHRC analysis, scoring for cumulative “Opportunity Capital,” including its component parts of Labor Market Access, Transit Access, Health Outlook, and Educational Opportunity; “Neighborhood Quality”; and “Neighborhood Trajectory.” Within each of these indicators, local factors have been added where appropriate (e.g., RIPTA bus routes are discussed within the Transit Access Indicator). Finally, each chapter concludes with the assessment of the “Targeted Pathway,” which is meant as an indication of what kind of investment a given neighborhood would most benefit from, as prescribed by the PAHRC methodology; however, as noted in their report, “Beyond the trends identified here, investment pathways are community-specific and should be further developed by community stakeholders based on localized data.”4 To that end, the suggested Pathway for each Census Tract is examined in the context of its existing low- and moderate-income housing stock, as well as any current and potential development opportunities.