WELLFLEET — The task force charged with recommending the best developer to build and manage 46 units of affordable rental housing on Lawrence Road has selected a national nonprofit organization with plenty of experience that partnered with a local agency for the project.
Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and the Community Development Partnership (CDP) submitted the $20.2-million proposal that earned the top rating from the task force in its vote on Monday. The members were impressed with the organization’s track record in building, financing, and managing large affordable housing developments. And they liked POAH’s decision to have a local partner that knows the needs of Outer Cape residents.
The panel’s vote for POAH-CDP was 7-1. Kathleen Bacon, the lone dissenter, remained solidly behind a smaller for-profit bidder, Civico, giving that company the highest score that could be awarded in all six ranking categories. Civico had submitted a $14.6-million proposal that had few units reserved for the lowest-income households.
The Community Builders, another large national nonprofit with a long and successful track record, had submitted a $19.3-million proposal for 46 units for tenants whose incomes ranged from 30 percent and below up to 80 percent of the area median (AMI).
“Our entire team is incredibly grateful to be entrusted with this significant project for the town of Wellfleet,” said Jay Coburn, the CEO of Eastham-based CDP. Coburn said the POAH-CDP project offered the greatest range of affordability, from rentals to tenants making 30 percent or less of the AMI up to 11 unrestricted units that will go to households earning between 80 and 120 percent of the AMI.
CDP has a “small ownership stake” in the project, Coburn said. His organization had worked on the plan and will help take the project through local permitting, financing, and the rent-out lottery. POAH will manage the site.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a significant number of affordable homes in Wellfleet that address a broad range of local needs for both family and elderly residents,” wrote Julie Creamer, POAH’s senior vice president of acquisitions, in an email.
The eight task force members had individually scored the three proposals in six categories that ranged from site layout and building design to energy efficiency, affordability plans, experience, and financing ability. Task force members worked with a rating system that allowed scores in each category ranging from “unacceptable” to “highly advantageous.”
Each developer was also required to commit to shouldering 44 percent of the cost to build and operate a wastewater system that will serve not only the new housing but also surrounding municipal and residential properties, advancing the town’s watershed management plan and in turn helping it come into compliance with the Clean Water Act.
POAH-CDP came out on top of the ratings with 41 “highly advantageous” marks. Their proposal got 11 “advantageous” and 4 “unacceptable” grades. Jan Plaue rated the building design unacceptable. The other three unacceptable grades were from Bacon in the categories of building design, site design, and financing. Bacon criticized the proposal for incorporating a real estate tax abatement from the town into its financial analysis.
Earlier in the discussion, Laura Shufelt, an expert from the Mass Housing Partnership who has been working with the task force, told them an abatement of taxes “usually isn’t needed,” although a PILOT agreement (payment in lieu of taxes) is sometimes worked out.
“I think there would be ways to fill the gap if the abatement isn’t given,” she said. “It wouldn’t be a make or break.”
The POAH-CDP proposal calls for 24 townhouse units with two or three bedrooms housed in seven buildings in an area called “Upper Village” on the six-acre site. The remaining 22 units of one and two bedrooms are to be housed in a single building in the “Lower Village.”
Some members initially balked at the single large building with 22 units. But task force member Jay Horowitz was one who thought the building size was not a problem. “The tallest building in town is right across the street,” he said, referring to the school.
Chair Elaine McIlroy liked the proposed design for the large building and pointed out that all 22 units were on a single level. POAH left the largest buffer of treed areas between the project and the surrounding neighborhood, she said, and left the largest amount of undisturbed land.
“The depth and breadth of POAH’s experience sold me, and their resources for the residents, which is critically important,” said member James Hood.
Plaue said she had loved the little cottages the Civico plan featured, but the lack of a community building on the plan caused her to nix the proposal. There would be no place for residents to gather, she said.
Bacon read a statement explaining her support for Civico. Since the company planned to finance with conventional mortgages rather than state and federal funding, “they won’t be waiting on funding rounds from HUD or low-income housing tax credits,” she said.
“Civico could finish the project sooner rather than later,” said Bacon. “Their simple design made sense to me and there was no zoning relief needed. I call this the path of the least resistance.”
Chair McIlroy will now write a report and a recommendation from the task force. Task force members will meet Nov. 16 to finalize the report and forward it to the select board for its Nov. 23 meeting.
Editor’s note: Because of a fact-checking error, an earlier version of this article, published in print in the Nov. 11 edition, incorrectly identified Civico as a nonprofit organization. It is for-profit.