EASTHAM — As the first tenants begin moving into the Village at Nauset Green off Brackett Road, officials have acknowledged that the demand for housing by people at the lowest income level is greater than they anticipated.
A total of 290 applications were received for the 65 units in the mixed-income development. Eleven of those units — or 17 percent — are designated for tenants making 30 percent or less of the area median income (AMI) for Barnstable County. But 132 applicants — close to half of the total — were in the 30-percent or less group, according to Carolyn McPherson, chair of the Eastham Affordable Housing Trust.
“That was very telling, I think, for our community,” said McPherson.
Jay Coburn, CEO of the Community Development Partnership, agreed. “That was surprising to me,” he said, “how many applicants there were at the very low income level.”
Nauset Green is being built and managed by Pennrose, a developer based in Philadelphia. There are 18 buildings, four of which are now finished, said property manager Karen Kelley.
The project includes 27 one-bedroom units, 31 two-bedrooms, and seven three-bedrooms. It was designed to provide affordable and “workforce” units to alleviate the Outer Cape’s severe shortage of such housing.
A total of 39 units are designated for those earning up to 60 percent of AMI; 15 workforce units are for people earning up to 90 percent of AMI. Four of the units are ADA-accessible.
Developers are required to build a minimum of 13 percent of the units at the very low income level, so Pennrose’s 17 percent complies.
The rents for those low-income units are subsidized by Section 8 or Mass. Housing vouchers, so that the residents pay only 30 percent of their income, according to Coburn.
“Most of Eastern Massachusetts has a housing crisis,” he said. “We need to provide opportunities for everybody to move into better neighborhoods and better housing.”
McPherson said that the housing trust offers a rental assistance program to everyone renting in Eastham whose income is at the 30 percent or less level. This program, offering up to $350 per month for up to three years for qualified applicants, is available for Village residents.
Other forms of assistance in Massachusetts include the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), and the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP).
The $23 million project broke ground in December 2018 and hopeful tenants began filling out pre-applications in 2019.
Eastham residents, employees, and parents of children in Eastham schools get preference for 65 percent of the units; another 10 percent give preference to any Barnstable County resident. The remaining 25 percent of the units are open to all applicants.
These preferences apply in the first year only. Leases at the Village are for one year but are renewable. Rents range from $850 to $1,532 per month, said Kelley.
McPherson said that 87 percent of the applicants were Cape residents. After a September lottery, applicants were required to present income and asset verification documents, so not all may be eligible to move in, even if they drew a low lottery number.
“It’s such a complicated process,” McPherson said. “It’s like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. You could feel the tension in the room [on lottery day] because getting one of these apartments is a life-changing event for a family. So many people were desperately counting on having a low number.”
The Village’s first residents are beginning to move in. Ralph Desmond found out on New Year’s Eve that he had secured a one-bedroom unit. He moved in early January.
“It was a good way to start the New Year,” he said. “I’m very lucky.”
Desmond said he had lived in Provincetown for the last 39 years but recently was paying $1,000 a month for one room with no closet or kitchen. His one-bedroom unit in the Village has a living room and kitchen, three closets, and a washer and dryer. And it’s less expensive.
“I got rented out of Provincetown,” he said. “This really changed my life. I was living without a kitchen. I was eating very badly because I was eating out every day.”
Kerri McCloskey was beginning to move her sister’s belongings into a one-bedroom apartment at the Village on Jan. 22. Her sister, Janice, is a senior citizen living on disability who was notified that she had secured a lease about a week earlier.
McCloskey said she and her husband helped Janice move into an upstairs studio apartment in Eastham after she was homeless for a period of time. It was difficult for her to climb the stairs, but it was all they could find in Eastham.
Another man who identified himself as Jim from Wellfleet was moving into a two-bedroom apartment above Janice’s place on the same day. He said he had been homeless for the last four years and was happy to have secured a place in the Village.
Both Desmond and McCloskey said Kelley was helpful in filling out their applications.
The remaining 14 buildings are supposed to be completed over the next four months. Final landscaping, grading, and paving of the road will be completed in the spring, according to Kelley.
The last units will be occupied in April, Kelley said.
In 2017 the Village was awarded $10 million over 10 years in federal low-income housing tax credits and $875,000 from the state for five years.
Eastham voters approved $750,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the development at town meeting. Wellfleet and Orleans town meetings each contributed $100,000 in preservation act money in 2018.