Providence City Council to Limit the Jurisdiction of the Housing Court as it Pertains to Receiverships
The City Council passed for the second and final time passed an Ordinance that would limit the Providence Housing Court’s jurisdiction pertaining to receiverships. The ordinance was introduced by Councilor Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilors Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), and John Goncalves (Ward 1).
The receivership program was initially started to address blighted and neglected properties throughout the City of Providence. However, in the years since that implementation private entities have begun to use the program as a way to displace homeowners and cause further inequities in our housing market.
“As councilors, it is our duty to protect our neighbors from predatory private interests whose goal is to profit off of those most vulnerable in our community. I am proud that our Council is taking a stand and refusing to allow these interests from taking homes away from hard-working residents, and I hope the state will follow suit and pass legislation that prevents this same predatory behavior in Superior Court,” stated Councilor Katherine Kerwin
This ordinance addresses the Providence Housing Court’s authority to hear receivership cases by limiting the Court’s jurisdiction to only those that have been filed by the City of Providence or the Providence Redevelopment Agency. Private actors such as abutter’s and non-profits will still have the opportunity to pursue receivership cases; however, they will now be required to utilize the Rhode Island Superior Court to do so. Receivership cases in the housing context may be filed pursuant to Rhode Island General Law §34-44, the Abandoned Property Act, and it is this state law procedure that allows private actors to petition abandoned properties into receivership for purposes of rehabilitation. This ordinance will ensure that the Providence Housing Court’s review of receivership cases will only occur in instances where the City of Providence or the Providence Redevelopment Agency have deemed it necessary to pursue such an action.
“I would like to applaud Councilwoman Kerwin for her swift action and attention to this matter. Her advocacy and determination are what public service is all about. During our Committee on Ordinances meeting on this matter, we had a robust and productive discussion about how we preserve our housing stock and ensure that our residents are being treated fairly. I would also like to thank the City Solicitor’s office for its guidance. This ordinance is all about protecting residents from unintended abuse of the cities streamlined receivership program,” shared Majority Leader and Chairwoman on the Committee on Ordinances Jo-Ann Ryan.
The Housing Court enforces the municipal ordinances and state laws governing minimum residential requirements, lead paint abatement, zoning, and building requirements to the end that all the people in the City of Providence be housed in dwellings that are safe, sanitary, and fit for human habitation and that all structures be utilized per state and municipal lead, code, zoning, and building laws, in the belief that such enforcement will protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of the City of Providence and fulfill the City’s Mission of creating and maintaining healthy neighborhoods. In fulfilling its mission, the Housing Court will seek to achieve enforcement and safeguard public health and safety without impairing property ownership.
“As elected officials, we must work to protect our residents in all ways, and this ordinance will make it the purview of the State Superior Courts to award receiverships by private entities. Our community is hurting financially because of the ongoing pandemic, and we need to act to protect our homeowners and housing stock in the City. I want to thank Councilor Kerwin for her leadership and all my colleagues who co-sponsored this important legislation,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.
Ordinance: Limit the Jurisdiction of the Housing Court