The two Outer Cape towns with the poorest records of creating affordable housing — Truro and Wellfleet — will both surely fail to meet upcoming deadlines in their existing housing production goals. Those goals, laid out in housing plans that are set to expire within the next two years, are based on state guidelines that are themselves clearly inadequate to meet the actual need for housing of local residents.
Truro’s housing plan, issued in 2018, predicted that the town would produce 34 new affordable units by March 2023. In fact, as of December 2020, the number of those units in Truro had declined by two in the previous five years. The Cloverleaf project will potentially create 20 to 25 new affordable units, but it is mired in a court challenge, and there is no chance that construction could be completed in the next year and a half.
Wellfleet’s 2017 housing plan called for the creation of 45 new affordable units by October 2022. As of last December, a total of four new units had been created. But the 95 Lawrence Road project, now in the planning stage, is expected to add as many as 46 new units within a few years, though certainly not by a year from now.
Towns submit Chapter 40B housing production plans (HPPs) to the state to establish five-year goals for the creation of deed-restricted affordable housing. To be considered affordable by the state, housing must cost no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Based on perceived need and total number of year-round units in a community, towns set production targets for households making below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI) and another target for those making between 80 and 120 percent of the AMI — sometimes called “workforce” or “community” housing.
The Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development takes special interest in towns’ subsidized housing inventory (SHI), the number of deed-restricted affordable rental and home ownership units for those making 80 percent or less of AMI. Towns that increase their stock of SHI by 0.5 percent in a year can, for one year, deny developers comprehensive permits for 40B applications they deem inconsistent with local needs.
Chapter 40B is a provision of state law — sometimes called the “anti-snob zoning law” — that allows developers to bypass some local zoning regulations if a certain percentage of units in a development are reserved as affordable. Towns that implement one-percent increases over one year can deny such permits for two years.
A community can deny 40B comprehensive permits in perpetuity if it has reached the state’s overall goal of having 10 percent of its year-round units qualifying as SHI. Though HPPs are not mandatory, Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro all have them.
Eastham met the production goals in its last plan, which expired this year. Provincetown has another five years to reach its 10-year goal.
Though most of the data from the 2020 census have not yet been released, Eastham’s most recent HPP shows that subsidized housing options are badly needed. It reported that, while median rent in Eastham nearly doubled from 2010 to 2019, median wages in rental households fell by roughly 15 percent between 2014 and 2019. The median renter in Eastham could afford to pay $955 per month in rent. A standard market-rate rent for a two-bedroom unit, the report found, was $1,900.
Truro Falls Further Behind
A community needs analysis conducted in Truro in 2015 identified a deficit of 62 year-round units for workers and seniors and predicted that another 96 to 116 units would be needed between 2015 and 2030. At the time of the study’s release, Truro had 27 SHI units.
Truro’s 2018 HPP reported to the state that 34 new SHI-eligible units would become available by the plan’s expiration in March 2023. In addition, the plan predicted that 11 non-SHI-eligible accessory dwelling units (ADUs) would be ready by 2023.
As of December 2020, though, Truro had just 25 total SHI units, a decline of two since the 2015 analysis.
If the Cloverleaf project creates between 20 and 25 additional SHI units, Town Planner Barbara Carboni said, Truro’s SHI number would rise to 5.87 percent from 2.3 percent, where it currently sits.
Future affordable housing in Truro could be sited at Town Hall Hill if the DPW relocates to a new building. The 2018 HPP lists the Town Hall Hill project as a priority for 2020 to 2023.
Wellfleet Crawls Ahead
Wellfleet’s October 2017 community needs assessment found that there were 34 SHI-eligible units in town and did not mention the existence of any non-SHI units for those making between 80 and 120 percent of AMI. The 2017 housing production plan called for an additional 45 SHI and 40 non-SHI units by the plan’s expiration in October 2022. In December 2020, the town had a total of 38 SHI units, according to the state’s website.
The 95 Lawrence Road project should produce an additional 46 units, though the three competing proposals divide them up at different levels of affordability. A proposal from one developer, the Community Builders, projects completion of the project by the end of 2025, three years after the HPP’s expiration.
Wellfleet’s HPP also lists the hiring of a part-time housing coordinator among its priorities for the years 2018-2019. According to the plan, the coordinator would, among other things, help research funding sources and communicate with residents about opportunities for housing and financial support. No coordinator has been hired.
Provincetown Welcomes 40B
Provincetown is the only Outer Cape community without an official housing production plan. Michelle Jarusiewicz, the community housing specialist, said the town has “never seen a need” to submit an HPP to the state because the rewards for complying are of no benefit. “We welcome 40B applications,” she said.
Instead, the town puts out its own plan for creating housing which, similar to a state HPP, sets time-bound goals for producing a specific number of affordable units based on community need.
Provincetown’s most recent Housing Playbook, published in 2016, set a goal of creating between 190 and 240 new affordable units in 10 years. That goal matched the need calculated in the town’s 2013 analysis.
In February 2014, Provincetown had 184 SHI-eligible units and 16 non-SHI units, according to its Housing Action Plan. As of December 2020, those numbers had increased to 206 SHI-eligible and 59 non-SHI-eligible, an overall increase of 81 units.
The number of SHI units makes up 9.71 percent of all year-round housing in town, based on a 2020 estimate of 2,122 year-round units. The planned affordable housing development at the former VFW property on Jerome Smith Road will yield a number of deed-restricted units, though a developer has not yet been chosen.
The 2016 Housing Playbook notes that future sites for such housing could include the former community center at 46 Bradford St., the second floor of Fire Station #2, and the Coastal Acres Campground, among others. (See related story on page A1.)
Eastham Exceeds Goal
A side-by-side comparison of Eastham’s 2021 HPP and its previous plan, which was drafted in 2016 and expired this year, shows that the town met its primary production goals but pushed off some administrative ones. The 2016 plan called for a minimum of 65 new SHI-eligible units (50 rental and 15 home ownership) to increase stock by an average of 0.5 percent per year, with a higher “moving target” number of 242 based on total community need.
Eastham exceeded its 2016 base goal, adding 69 net units, according to the latest plan; 65 of those units are in the Village at Nauset Green on Brackett Road. Eastham now has a total of 119 SHI units.
Two zoning changes listed as priorities in 2016 were not made and have been written into the 2021-2026 plan. The first is inclusionary zoning, which requires that housing developers set aside a percentage of units as affordable (16.67 percent in Provincetown), or pay a certain sum into an affordable housing fund. Over one-third of Massachusetts communities have adopted inclusionary zoning. The planning board is responsible for introducing new zoning bylaws at town meeting. The 2021 plan says this change will happen in one to two years.
Also not completed under the previous plan was a change in Eastham’s Open Space Residential Subdivision Development bylaw. The bylaw “promotes a ‘smarter’ and more compact type of development pattern” by giving the town the option to require that units in a development be built in a cluster rather than a traditional grid system, leaving a portion of the plot permanently protected open space. Though the town has not used the bylaw to date, the 2016 and 2021 plans recommend that the Residential Zoning Task Force adopt density bonuses (increasing the total number of potential units in a given development) for including affordable housing.
Eastham’s recently approved 2021 HPP outlines similar production goals to its previous one: a minimum of 65 SHI-eligible units and a “moving target” number of 263 units. If the previous five years are indicative of the next five, the town will likely struggle to hit the higher mark. At a Sept. 27 select board meeting, however, Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe said reaching the number looked “doable” in her “back-of-the-napkin” calculations.