PROVINCETOWN — In an emergency session on Jan. 17 the select board approved a revision of the planned mix of units at the affordable housing development to be built at 3 Jerome Smith Road.
The 65 apartments will still be laid out as before, with the same mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units — but rules governing who can live in the apartments had to be changed, according to Lindsey Gael and Andrew Waxman of The Community Builders (TCB), the nonprofit developer that won the right to build the project in October 2021.
At that time, Town Manager Alex Morse and other members of the bid review committee had cited TCB’s willingness to include middle-income units as a key factor in their winning application.
Middle-income units are notoriously hard to build, however. Most state and federal programs that support affordable rental housing are for people with incomes below 80 percent of area median income (AMI), a number that is calculated every year by the federal government. For Barnstable County in 2022, the median income is $76,100 for a single person and $87,000 for two people.
Rental housing for people with incomes above 80 percent of the median is funded by just one state program with relatively small subsidies — and TCB told the select board that the “workforce housing” formula was going to cap its support to Provincetown’s renters at 80 percent of median income in any case.
Renting to those earning more would disqualify the project both for the low-income housing tax credit and for workforce funding, Waxman said.
Instead, TCB recommended a strategy of maximizing federal dollars and minimizing the amount required from the state to make the project more likely to win a competition that began on that same day, Jan. 17, Gael said.
The revised plan allocates 13 units for people earning less than 30 percent of AMI ($22,830 for one person), up from nine. There will be 32 units, not 36, for people earning between 30 and 60 percent of AMI. And the 16 units that had been reserved for people earning between 80 and 120 percent of AMI — $60,900 to $91,320 for one person — will now be for tenants making 80 percent of AMI or less.
The four market-rate rental units will remain unregulated as to income, Gael said.
Select board members worried that the new income mix would exclude middle-income earners, including many town employees who are struggling to find secure housing here.
In response to this concern, Gael said that “there are municipal employees, even teachers, teachers’ assistants, who are eligible for these units. Eighty percent is a workforce tier.”
Gael also said that the four unrestricted units planned could also serve as higher AMI workforce housing.
Despite its concerns, the select board approved the revised plan unanimously.
“We need a lot more than 65 units,” said select board member Louise Venden. “We probably need more like 300 units.
“Picking away at whether and how and which level” units the new project would now include is one course of action, Venden added, but “if we shifted those numbers, we would still be meeting a very important community need.”
Paul Benson contributed reporting.