As people who organize residents in the South Side and West
End of Providence directly impacted by evictions, homelessness, abandoned
property, unemployment, and criminalization, we have concrete demands on luxury
downtown development that will ensure direct benefits to our communities.
We support Councilwoman Mary Kay Harris’s vote not to approve
a zoning variance for the proposed Fane Tower. As the elected representative of
Ward 11, Councilwoman Harris knows all too well the housing crisis our city is
facing. 69% of South Side and West End residents have annual incomes less than
$50,000, and more than 50% of the population in these neighborhoods are housing
cost-burdened (meaning they pay more than 30% of their monthly income on
housing). These statistics describe the surface of the daily crises residents
are forced to face.
State and other City Councilors fall for the pipe dream rhetoric that any
development is good development, many of our families have to decide whether to
eat or pay rent. Families are working overtime to
pay for rent increases, mothers looking for stability are being priced out of
“affordable” housing developments because they don’t have enough income,
homeless youth cannot access resources and are forced into dangerous and
unstable conditions. The discussion of the proposed tower cannot be separated
from these stories.
to accept arguments made by city councilors that future developers will flee
Providence if we demand community benefits from Fane. Nor can we continue to
abide the argument that we must build luxury housing downtown in order to keep
the rich from buying up housing in our neighborhoods. Wealthy developers and
real estate investors have proven time and again that they will buy, sell, and
occupy whatever they can get their hands on. Only regulations like community
benefits agreements will ensure that low-income families in communities of
color see justice and equity from economic development.
Over the last 30 years, we have seen the impact that Downtown
development has on South Side and West End neighborhoods. Millions of dollars
in the form of tax stabilization agreements are given to developers without
guarantee that their projects will have tangible benefits for those in our
communities. As these projects are built, the homeless are criminalized and
pushed out of Downtown into our neighborhoods rather than being provided the
support and opportunities such development is supposed to offer. Meanwhile, our
housing stock ages, housing prices continue to rise, and long-term residents in
our neighborhoods continue to struggle. We know that luxury development has not
helped fix the problems our communities face.
Those living in and representing neighborhoods where housing
is affordable only to the privileged few are arguing against the Tower because
of aesthetics and fear of zoning variances. That argument fails to get to the
heart of our opposition to the project, rooted in the immediate needs of
residents in Ward 11 and every low-income community of color. Let us not forget
that our communities in the South Side and West End have been historically marginalized,
sharing the history of displacement with other communities, notably the Black
communities of the East Side and South and Central Americans in Olneyville.
Housing always plays a vital role in our displacement and disenfranchisement.
In order to benefit Ward 11, as well as low-income families in
communities of color across the city, The Fane Tower developer must sign a
legally-binding Community Benefits Agreement, which includes:
to the city to fund rehabilitation of abandoned properties, finance the
construction and maintenance of low-income housing, and offer rental vouchers
to those transitioning from homelessness, and
? Designate at
least 40 percent of all housing created in the development as affordable to
very low and low income families in Providence (those with annual incomes of
$30,000 or less)
? Create 1 new
job for every $35,000 given in tax breaks and or subsidies,
? Ensure that
new hires reflect the racial demographics of the city of Providence,
? Use apprenticeship programs for construction
hiring people from census tracts with high crime, unemployment and poverty,
? Ensure there
is no discrimination against job applicants with criminal records and
prioritize hiring formerly incarcerated workers, and
? Fully comply
with Providence’s “First Source”
local hiring ordinance.
The Fane development should include this as a Community
Benefits Agreement, but we’ve been advocating that city council leadership
include these requirements as standard for all Tax Stabilization Agreements.
A luxury housing and business development for high-end
earners with no guaranteed housing, funding, or jobs provides little hope for
the future of Ward 11 and the majority of city residents. As long as thousands
of Providence residents face a housing crisis, we must ensure that all luxury
development is utilized to benefit those in our city who won’t have access to
the projects after they’re built.
Mary Kay Harris was not contested and was re-elected to be
the City Councilwoman of Ward 11 because she has lived among us all her life,
she has struggled with us, she has uplifted us. That is why she voted “No” the first time that she and her
colleagues had an opportunity to vote on this development. We support her
decision to vote “No” on overriding
the Mayor’s veto tonight, and in fact, expect nothing less of all city
councilors, especially those representing low-income communities of color.