ORLEANS — The Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board and Affordable Housing Committee will host a housing conference on February 1.
Trust Fund Chairman Alan McClennen said the purpose of the event was to talk about the city’s affordable housing efforts, give updates on ongoing projects, explain roles what the various city committees and councils play in the process and discuss what the city is doing to create more housing in Orléans.
Invited boards include the Planning Board, Community Preservation Committee, Finance Committee, Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District Committee, Architectural Review Committee, City Plan Review Committee, Implementation, Affordable Housing Committee, Affordable Housing Board of Directors, Governor Prence’s Planning Committee and Select Council.
McClennen also wants community support.
Although a number of people serve on city committees and councils, this represents only a small percentage of the city’s population. The Feb. 1 effort aims to involve more people in the discussion in an effort to broaden the conversation, he said.
The need for affordable housing on Cape Cod is greater than ever. With the median home price in Orleans up about $200,000 since pre-pandemic highs, it’s not just low-income workers who are being squeezed out of a tight housing market. Teachers, firefighters, police and even some city officials struggle to find affordable housing.
“If we want services here, if we want restaurants open seven days a week, lawns mowed and trees trimmed, we have to provide housing for these people,” McClennen said. “We see it when we have vacancies in the police and fire departments.”
Orléans has been a leader in creating affordable housing in Cape Town. There are over 300 affordable housing units in the city, and another 25 are needed to meet the state’s 10% affordable housing benchmark. But even 10% isn’t enough, city officials say.
“Things have changed drastically,” said Michael Herman, a member of the board of directors of Select, during a joint meeting between the board of directors and the board of directors of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Tuesday. “We are in crisis. Our target was 10% but we have to watch today. We might need 20% to 25%. This city has done an amazing job, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be.
Other projects are in preparation, but they will take years to materialize.
A land disposition agreement between the city and the Housing Assistance Corporation for a 14-unit affordable rental unit at 107 Main Street is being reviewed by counsel.
HAC is expected to receive $1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for the project. Construction could begin next fall if it can secure other sources of funding, obtain full city permits, and obtain all other required federal, state, regional and local permits.
Pennrose, the company that wants to turn the former Cape Cod Five headquarters into 62 units, 52 of which would be affordable, is expected to know by June whether it has been approved for state and federal tax credits for the project.
If the tax credits are approved and everything else goes well, this project could be ready for construction in a year, McClennen said.
The jury is still out on whether the city wants to turn the former Governor’s Prence Inn into affordable housing. The town hall last May agreed to purchase the 5.5-acre downtown property for approximately $3 million, for indefinite purposes.
In the meantime, the Planning Board is studying how the bylaws could be changed to allow dormitories and group housing. There were discussions last month about building a dormitory in the industrial park for seasonal workers, but any changes to the bylaws would require public hearings and approval from the city assembly.
Housing advocates are pushing the Barnstable County Board of Regional Commissioners and Assembly of Delegates to direct a portion of the county’s $40 million in ARPA funds toward affordable housing.
And the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, a nonprofit that advocates affordable housing, is behind two laws, H.1377 and S.868, that would allow cities and towns to pass housing fees. local transfer on real estate transactions. The municipalities would determine the range of taxes, between 0.5% and 3%, and they would also determine the sale price of the house.
In 2018, Orléans voters approved a blanket waiver that earmarked 1% of property tax bills for affordable housing. It generates $275,000 annually.
“Maybe we need to change that number,” McClennen said.
The housing conference will be part of the monthly Affordable Housing Committee meeting beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Contact Denise Coffey at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.