Five weeks ago, we published a story with the headline “Truro and Wellfleet Will Fail to Meet Their Housing Goals.” It summarized the four Outer Cape towns’ affordable housing production plans and their progress in realizing them.
Truro did not come off well. “The Cloverleaf project,” we reported, “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” — that is, by March 2023, the end date of the town’s five-year housing production plan.
After the article appeared, we heard from Truro Town Planner Barbara Carboni, who argued that the headline was incorrect. In fact, she wrote, Truro had met the housing production goals set out in its 2018 plan and had received a letter from the state Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) saying so. She asked us to print a correction.
I was skeptical, to put it mildly. Looking at the numbers of affordably priced units in Truro over the last several years — in 2015 there were 27 units, and in 2020 there were only 25 units — I just couldn’t believe that the goals of the housing plan had been met. No correction, I decided.
What followed was a lengthy correspondence between Barbara and me. (We are now on a quite cordial first-name basis, I’m happy to say.) She sent me a copy of the letter from the state to back up her argument. Sure enough, just as she had said, Louis Martin, the director of the Division of Community Services for the DHCD, wrote to Truro officials on June 30, 2021 affirming that the town had produced 39 new affordable rental units at the Cloverleaf, bringing Truro’s Subsidized Housing Inventory up from a dismal 2.3 percent (the lowest on Cape Cod) to 5.87 percent and fulfilling the goals of the town’s housing plan. See Barbara’s letter to the editor elsewhere on this page for the actual wording of Martin’s letter on this point.
How was this possible? The Cloverleaf is stuck in court and nothing has been built there. I wrote to the DHCD, asking how they could certify that those units had been “produced.”
Samantha Kaufman, the department’s communications director, informed me that “produced means initially eligible for the Subsidized Housing Inventory — not constructed or occupied.”
In other words, as soon as the Truro Zoning Board of Appeals approved the comprehensive permit for the Cloverleaf, all of its units immediately counted as “produced” as far as the state was concerned.
No wonder I was confused. I thought “produced” meant something completely different.
Having the town’s housing production plan certified by the state as in compliance is no trivial matter. It means that, for the next two years, Truro is exempt from Chapter 40B, the state law that puts pressure on towns to work with developers to build affordable housing.
The folks at the DHCD certainly owe a debt to Humpty Dumpty, who said, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”