WELLFLEET — The 11-member task force that has been planning for affordable rental housing across from the Wellfleet Elementary School presented its work so far to a receptive audience of more than 70 townspeople on Monday. The panel sees up to 46 one-, two-, and three-bedroom units serving a range of low- to moderate-income tenants in two separate clusters of structures, a smaller one at the lower end of the 9.3-acre town-owned parcel and a larger one at the upper end, behind the school’s ball field.
The task force is preparing a request for proposals from developers. Bidders will be responsible for assembling financing for the project and coming up with a specific design.
“You cannot prescribe the exact design when you put out an RFP,” said Elaine McIlroy, chair of the housing authority and a task force member. “The idea is to lay the groundwork but give the developer the freedom to come up with the best possible design. So we can’t show you what it’s going to look like, but we want to share the attributes we’d like to put forward.”
McIlroy said the task force was being guided by three factors: the documented need for housing, the economics of funding affordable housing, and the physical attributes of the site.
An initial feasibility study, she said, showed that “it could hold up to 46 units. There’s leeway to do less. We don’t want to do more.”
McIlroy said the need for more affordable housing was clear, and no one at Monday’s meeting, sponsored by the Wellfleet Community Forum, disputed this. She reviewed the data from recent housing efforts: 60 households applied for the six apartments Wellfleet built a few years ago on Gull Pond Road; 11 apartments advertised recently in Provincetown and Truro had 153 applicants; and the lottery for the Village at Nauset Green, now being built in Eastham, had 293 applicants for 65 units. Of those 293, McIlroy said, 157 were from the four Outer Cape towns.
She also presented data showing that current renters in Wellfleet “are more cost-burdened than in any other Cape town,” with nearly half of them paying 50 percent or more of their total income in rent.
The task force invited one of those renters, Stacie Rose, to address the forum. She said she and her husband, Darren, have lived in Wellfleet off and on for five years. They have a two-year-old.
“We love it here because we can raise our little boy and not worry about locking the door,” said Rose. “We’re blessed to have a roof over our heads.” She described the hardship of repeatedly coming up with deposits for seasonal housing: “first, last, and security — that’s thousands of dollars. I had a Fleetian tell me that it’s just the way it is on the Lower Cape — we’re always broke. But we shouldn’t have to live that way just to pay our rent.”
McIlroy and task force consultants Mark Wixted of Bohler Engineering and Laura Shufelt of the Mass. Housing Partnership laid out a variety of elements the group was considering for its RFP, including siting the septic system under the ball field and renovating the field; energy-efficient construction with solar panels; onsite property management; maintaining the densely wooded slope on the north side of the parcel, near Old Long Pond Road; communal outdoor gathering spaces; safety of walkways to the school; and “architecture and design compatible with the area and Wellfleet vernacular architecture, both traditional and modern.”
The group hopes to accommodate tenants with a wide range of income levels, from 30 percent of the area median to 100 percent. And they want preference given to Wellfleet residents, workers, and parents of children in the school for 70 percent of the units — the maximum allowed by law.
Residents asked a variety of questions about parking, traffic, bike paths, the water supply, storage space, building height, and pet-friendliness, and were told that the task force was considering all of them.
In answer to a question about access points to the likely building sites, Wixted said there would be two: one from Long Pond Road to the lower site, near the old Council on Aging building, and one from Lawrence Road to the upper site.
Another questioner asked what would happen if a renter’s income went up. Would he have to move out? No, said Carl Sussman, a member of the task force; he would just have to pay a higher rent. No tenant would be forced to leave because of changes in income, he said.
The other task force members are Kathleen Bacon, Gary Sorkin, Jim Hood, Jan Plaue, Andrew Freeman, and Jay Horowitz. Town Administrator Dan Hoort and Assistant Town Administrator Mike Trovato are ex officio members.