WELLFLEET — With the town having built far fewer affordable housing units than it promised the state it would create by 2022, the Affordable Housing Trust now plans to issue a request for proposals from the owners of property that could be converted to affordable housing or used to build new units.
The goal is to have 150 units of certified affordable housing, which would represent 10 percent of the town’s total housing stock. That is the threshold established by the Mass. Dept. of Housing and Community Development, below which towns are subject to the provisions of Chapter 40B, the state law that enables zoning boards to issue comprehensive permits to developers of affordable housing. Currently, Wellfleet has only 38 state-certified affordable units.
“We need 112 more units,” trust chair Harry Terkanian told the Independent following the trustees’ Oct. 4 meeting. “At this point, anything that we can find that will get us towards that goal is positive: large parcel, small parcel — anything we can develop is worth looking at. We’re casting a net to see what we will get back.”
Wellfleet is one of two Outer Cape towns that will fail to meet their existing housing production goals, the Independent reported last week. The other is Truro. Wellfleet’s 2017 housing plan called for the creation of 45 new affordable units by October 2022. As of last December, only four new units had been created.
Current housing initiatives, if completed, would add about 59 homes, Terkanian said, though that will certainly not happen by the October 2022 target date.
The 95 Lawrence Road project, now in the planning stage, is expected to add as many as 46 new units to the total. (See related story on page A8.) Another request for proposals (RFP) for the construction of one affordable single-family house at 90 Freeman Ave. will be released in the coming weeks.
There are also the four planned houses on Old King’s Highway and eight units on Paine Hollow Road that have been bogged down in litigation with abutters for years. (See related story on page A10.)
The members of the Affordable Housing Trust described the RFP as a way to bring attention to a critical issue. The trust is a new town body, created by vote of the 2020 annual town meeting. There are seven trustees; besides Terkanian, a lawyer who is a former town administrator, the other members are housing authority chair Elaine McIlroy, housing authority member Gary Sorkin, Sharon Rule-Agger, water commission chair Jim Hood, real estate broker Kathleen Nagle, and select board member Michael DeVasto.
“I would like to tell the people who are supporting us that we are making an effort to identify properties we can use to generate more housing,” Terkanian said during the Oct. 4 meeting. “It’s a little different than saying we made six phone calls and we don’t have anything to buy.”
The town of Chatham issued a similar RFP for developable parcels this past August.
“It looked to me like a tool that would afford the town an opportunity to solicit proposals in a public process and in compliance with Mass. procurement law,” Terkanian said.
Wellfleet’s Chapter 40B housing production plans (HPPs) are reported to the state, establishing five-year goals for the creation of deed-restricted affordable housing. Once the production goal is reached, the town can deny comprehensive permits under Chapter 40B, which allows developers to bypass some local zoning regulations if they include a certain percentage of affordable units in the plan.
The state defines affordable housing units as those serving households with incomes at 80 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), a metric developed by the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
The Affordable Housing Trust aims to serve households with a range of incomes, from under 30 percent of (AMI) to 120 percent. Besides affordable housing, there is also a need for what is commonly called “workforce housing,” for households that make more than 80 percent of AMI but still can’t afford to live in Wellfleet, Terkanian said.
“That’s another issue that needs to be addressed over and above reaching the affordable housing goal,” he said.
As larger parcels have become available in other towns, like Truro’s Walsh property or Eastham’s T-Time, towns have stepped up to buy them, trustee Kathleen Nagle said in a phone interview. “Perhaps, someone in town will want to work with us.”
Nagle doesn’t expect people to be “altruistic” when it comes to real estate, she said during the trust’s meeting. “We will likely have to pay market value to get something.”
How much money might be spent on a housing initiative will be determined if any proposals come in, and if they make sense, Terkanian said.
“If someone says they have a half-acre lot and want $900,000, then that’s probably a non-starter,” he said.
While the trust already has some funds, the amount wouldn’t cover a large purchase. Town meeting would need to authorize additional funding. The trust would be able to handle a small purchase with the funds on hand, Terkanian said.
The parcels offered can be any size but must be in Wellfleet, have a clear title, no easements, restrictions, or reservations, and be up to date on payment of real estate taxes. The owner must be prepared to enter a purchase and sale agreement within 30 days from acceptance of the proposal, according to the draft RFP.
The trust’s RFP is set to be issued on Nov. 15, according to the draft discussed during the meeting. The language is being finalized by town staff.
The trustees hope to have responses before February, giving the trust 120 days to evaluate proposals and decide whether to ask for town meeting funding, Terkanian said.
While any property is potentially helpful, those larger than eight acres could provide multiple units of housing with a proportionally larger effect, Nagle said.
“We also need to sell it, to put it out there with press releases and a flyer that says if you’re interested, contact us,” McIlroy said.
If a piece of land becomes available before the January deadline, the trust also has the option of negotiating a deal with the land owner and then taking the proposal to town meeting.
In that case, a uniqueness declaration would be required, describing why a procurement process didn’t take place, as happened with Eastham’s T-Time and Town Center Plaza purchases, Terkanian said.