PROVINCETOWN — Development of the town-owned VFW site on Jerome Smith Road, long envisioned as a likely spot for affordable housing, appears to be moving forward with a plan for 51 units — primarily rentals for tenants making well below area median income.
A series of public meetings have helped town officials narrow the choices of what the income limits should be, what kind of apartments to build, how they should be configured, and how much parking there should be. Those who have participated in these meetings have generally supported a medium level of density, possibly involving one apartment building and six smaller triplexes, and focused on year-round rentals.
The meetings were designed to help guide the town’s dealings with potential developers and funding agencies, said Michelle Jarusiewicz, Provincetown’s community housing specialist. Writing requests for proposals will be among the next steps.
Public sentiment at the two meetings held so far has favored affordable rental units over condo ownership, according to survey data compiled by JM Goldson, the consulting company running the meetings. Support was strongest for a medium-density development with about 50 units, split almost evenly among two-bedrooms, one-bedrooms, and studio apartments.
Participants at both meetings have favored one on-site parking space per apartment. They also indicated a strong desire to house those making 60 to 80 percent of area annual median income — which means $36,000 to $51,000 for a single person, or $55,000 to $73,000 for a family of four.
That income bracket falls outside the requirements for the three largest and most recent housing developments to come online in Provincetown: Harbor Hill, Province Landing, and Stable Path. The partly occupied Harbor Hill project offers market-rate apartments to those making 80 percent to 200 percent of area median income — that is, more than $51,000 a year for a single person or $58,400 for a couple.
At Province Landing, which was built on town-owned land and opened in 2012, 82 percent of the units are for tenants making less than 60 percent of area median income, $36,000 a year for a single person.
Stable Path, which opened in 2016, uses roughly the same formula as Province Landing: 78 percent of the units are for those making less than 60 percent of area median income.
It can be hard to create housing for those making just under median income, explained Jarusiewicz. Such households struggle to afford market rates but often earn too much to qualify for federal housing assistance. This could explain why 85 percent of the participants at the most recent meeting on Sept 17 said it was either “very important” or “absolutely essential” to provide housing options for those making 60 to 80 percent of median income in the VFW development.
The town and its community planning consultant, Jennifer Goldson, will hold one more public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov 13 at town hall to discuss the results of their fact-finding so far and take further comments. Goldson will then prepare a presentation for the select board, which will likely take place in the first half of December, according to Elisabeth Verde, executive assistant to the acting town manager.
That presentation is meant to give the select board enough information for them to direct staff in drafting an RFP for developers, explained acting Town Manager David Gardner. That process could happen in January, with an RFP issued in February or March, Gardner said.