After 20 Years, 8 Units May Be Built in Wellfleet


After 20 Years, 8 Units May Be Built in Wellfleet

The town and abutters settle suit on Paine Hollow project

By Christine Legere Jun 16, 2021

WELLFLEET — A court fight that has derailed the building of eight affordable rental units on Paine Hollow Road appears to be on the verge of resolution.

Lawyers for the town and for the three abutters who have been fighting the development for nearly two decades reported that the last pending case was “settled,” according to a written order issued by Barnstable Superior Court Associate Justice Christine Higginbotham on June 3. The judge gave the parties until Aug. 6 to submit a signed agreement.

Full details of the agreement have not been disclosed, but they appear to include a reconfiguration of the driveway so that its slope will be no steeper than 10 percent. Originally, the driveway was to have had a 15-percent slope.

The town has been trying to use the five-acre site at 120 Paine Hollow Road for affordable housing since 2001, when the land, which had been taken for nonpayment of taxes, was turned over to the Wellfleet Housing Authority.

The latest lawsuit has been moving slowly through the courts since 2017, when the abutters appealed the comprehensive permit issued by the Wellfleet Zoning Board of Appeals under state Chapter 40B to Ted Malone, president of Community Housing Resource of Provincetown.

Malone’s proposal called for eight rental units with a total of 11 bedrooms designed in two four-unit structures. The lawsuit was filed by abutters B. Steven and Kay Verney, Robert and Jennie Wallace, and Richard and Marilyn Guernsey. They argued in their original lawsuits that the wastewater from those apartments would contaminate their wells. After several years of litigation, those claims were dismissed.

Malone said on Monday that the number of units and bedrooms will remain the same, though some modifications will be made to satisfy the abutters’ concerns.

The housing authority selected Community Housing Resource as the developer in 2006, with the authority holding a long-term lease on the land.

Malone began the local permitting process with a review by the conservation commission, which issued an order of conditions. The abutters immediately appealed the order, raising the well contamination argument. The Dept. of Environmental Protection sided with the conservation commission, and the abutters eventually lost the case after further appeals.

By the time that case was settled, however, the economy had collapsed in the Great Recession and housing crisis of 2008. Economic conditions made the Paine Hollow development plan unrealistic.

Malone returned in 2017 with a new proposal to build the same project, this time under the state’s Chapter 40B, which allows for a streamlined review process in communities where less than 10 percent of housing stock is affordable. Wellfleet stood at about 2 percent.

During hearings on the permit, there was once again pushback from neighbors over water and the steep grade of the driveway. That concern was shared by Fire Chief Richard Pauley, who said it would be too steep for his apparatus and ambulances to navigate in winter storms.

Malone reworked the plan, decreasing the slope from 15 to 12 percent, but Pauley argued that the National Fire Protection Association’s standards called for no more than a 10-percent grade.

Malone provided opinions from engineers who said a 12-percent grade was adequate for residential driveways, and that the fire safety code exempts single-family and two-family dwellings from the 10-percent maximum.

The zoning board incorporated those opinions in its comprehensive permit, and required an automatic sprinkler system.

As part of the latest agreement, the 10-percent grade will be achieved, but it will require lengthening the driveway, Malone said.

“Hopefully, we’ll have something official signed soon,” he said. “We still have quite a bit of time ahead of us before building.” He must once again secure financing for the project, and the state’s next funding round isn’t until January or February 2022.

Attorney David Reid, who represents the abutters, said that changes in the plan “will be put in a formal agreement and submitted to town counsel.” Then, it will go back to the zoning board and “hopefully, they will accept the revised plan,” he said.

The zoning board members were named as defendants in the suit but did not take an active role in the proceedings. Jonathan Murray of KP Law represented the town but said he could not comment.

Michael DeVasto, the select board chair and a member of the town’s affordable housing trust, was happy to hear of the pending agreement. “If this can be worked out sooner rather than later, it would be great for the town,” he said.

Elaine McIlroy, chair of the Wellfleet Housing Authority, declined to comment on specifics, because she was not aware of a possible settlement, but she did say by email, “No matter what project we are talking about, we need affordable housing more now than ever.”

Nantucket’s Short Term Rental War

Nantucket’s Short Term Rental War

By Candance Taylor for The Wall Street Journal

June 10, 2021 |

The jovial atmosphere belied the tensions surrounding one of the items on the agenda: Article 90, a proposal to significantly reduce the number and duration of short-term rentals on the island.

Debate over the proposal quickly turned tense. Article 90 sponsor Tobias Glidden, a 33-year-old full-time resident whose family has owned Glidden’s Island Seafood since 1898, gave an emotional speech defending the proposed bylaw. He said investors who own short-term rentals “are extracting money from the island like they’re extracting squid from our local waters.”

Another year-round resident, Linda Williams, called Article 90 “abhorrent,” saying her 82-year-old uncle depends on income from short-term rentals to maintain the family’s longtime seasonal house on the island. “We may lose my family’s summer home,” she said.

On the sidelines, unable to vote because neither is a full-time resident, were two men whose power and wealth helped fuel the battle over the proposal, which has created a painful community rift.

In one metaphorical corner was Peter McCausland, 71, founder of the industrial gas distributor Airgas, and a longtime Nantucket summer resident whose cliff-top compound is assessed at roughly $18 million. He created and bankrolled ACK Now, the group behind Article 90, arguing that short-term rentals lead to congestion and noise and price out year-round residents.

In the other was Norman Levenson, 77, also a longtime Nantucket summer resident, whose Nantucket home—including a roughly 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom main house and a one-bedroom guesthouse—is assessed at about $5 million. His company, the Copley Group, owns 13 short-term-rental properties on the island. He founded the Alliance to Protect Nantucket’s Economy, which has received funding from the Copley Group. Many local business owners have sided with Mr. Levenson’s group and Nantucket Together, another group that opposed Article 90. Mr. Levenson and his allies argued that restricting short-term rentals would devastate the island’s tourism-dependent economy and, despite ACK Now’s claims, would worsen the island’s severe shortage of affordable housing.

The dispute inflamed long-simmering tensions among local residents over affordability, overcrowding, and access to the island, where nearly half the land is conserved and its astronomical home prices are climbing.

“This is the hottest topic on the island in I can’t even tell you how many years,” said Mr. Levenson.

Since neither Mr. McCausland nor Mr. Levenson—nor roughly 80% of the island’s homeowners—can vote on Nantucket, they each embarked on an aggressive campaign to gain support from year-rounders. Starting this fall, the battle was waged with letters and advertisements in the local newspaper, phone call campaigns, lawn signs and social media. Mr. Levenson’s group declined to comment on how much Copley Group contributed to the effort. Mr. McCausland declined to say how much he contributed to ACK Now.

“I recognize that I can’t tell the people of Nantucket what to do,” said Mr. McCausland. “But my goal in forming this organization was to give them something to think about.”

Some Nantucketers didn’t appreciate the intervention. Ms. Williams called ACK Now’s focus on affordable housing “a smokescreen.” At the meeting, she accused Mr. McCausland of elitism. “They don’t want the people…that are not his kind of people.”

Rebecca Chapa, a year-round resident who says she couldn’t afford her Nantucket home without income from Airbnb, added, “I think it’s so fascinating that someone who doesn’t live here year-round, who only uses their house for a few months in the summer, could decide what the year-round people should be doing with their homes.” She said she was also alarmed by the discord the proposal sowed in the community. “What was discouraging to me was we’re really dividing up our island more than we’re in it together.”

Each side blames the other for the rancor. Mr. Levenson said he is upset by the divisive tone. “It was neighbor against neighbor,” he said, accusing Mr. McCausland of trying to impose his will on Nantucket without determining what islanders want.

Mr. McCausland responded by saying “Levenson and other nonresident STR investors, if left to their own devices, will turn Nantucket into an islandwide, short-stay Disneyland. I am against that.”

“Their strategy early on was to divide up the community,” said Mr. Glidden, ACK Now’s chairman, about the island’s real-estate investors. “I’ve seen a lot of really negative rhetoric put at me.”

On its face, Nantucket’s fight over short-term rentals is similar to disputes that have taken place in cities and towns across the country. But the battle is especially high stakes on this tiny island, where tourism is the lifeblood of the economy. Some residents said the short-term rental restrictions would have imperiled their livelihoods or forced them to move off island.

As Nantucket’s popularity as a second-home destination has grown, home prices on Nantucket have exploded. The median sale price of a Nantucket home skyrocketed 95% to $2.5 million in 2020 from $1.3 million in 2010, according to the real-estate brokerage Hunter, Reed and Company. Year-round residents, such as teachers and tradespeople, have found it increasingly difficult to find even modest homes to purchase or rent, said Mr. Glidden.

“Eight years ago, you could buy a house for $600,000 or $700,000,” he said. Now, “you can’t find anything for under $1.2 million. It’s forcing a lot of great people in our community to be like, ‘hey, I’m moving off the island.’ ”

Mr. McCausland believes the solution lies in restricting short-term rentals. A homeowner on island since 1979, Mr. McCausland is retired after netting almost $1 billion from the 2016 sale of Airgas. He and his wife, Bonnie, split their time between Florida, Nantucket and Pennsylvania. In recent summers, he said, he has been troubled by Nantucket’s increasing traffic, crowding, lack of affordability, and “this unbridled growth that’s going on and destroying the place.”

In 2019, Mr. McCausland founded ACK Now. The group decided to focus first on short-term rentals, which are stays less than 30 days. In Mr. McCausland’s view, off-island investors buying Nantucket homes for short-term rentals are worsening the island’s affordability crisis. Meanwhile, he said, weekend renters are partying and disrupting residential neighborhoods with noise and adding to traffic and crowding.

For Mr. Glidden, the issue of short-term rentals hit home. He said there are three short-term rentals behind his family’s 2.5-acre property near the airport on Rugged Road, a wooded parcel with chickens that his parents purchased for $44,000 in 1984 and that is now assessed at $1.4 million. There are 16 short-term rentals in the Beach Plum Village housing development down the street. “I grew up playing in the mud puddles on Rugged Road,” he said. “Now it’s paved, and you don’t know who’s at the house next door from week to week. There’s drunken people having parties every weekend.”

In November 2020, ACK Now submitted Article 90, which proposed a seven-day minimum stay for most short-term rentals, a 90-day cap on total annual short-term rental days for full-time residents, and a 45-day cap for other owners.

An uproar ensued. Local businesspeople said Article 90 would drastically reduce their customer base, especially in the shoulder seasons of fall and spring. Ms. Chapa, 49, said limiting short-term rentals would hurt business at her restaurant, the Hungry Minnow, a seasonal snack bar on Children’s Beach. She said that she and her husband purchased their house for $480,000 in 2011 with the intent of renting it out to help pay the mortgage.

The four-bedroom home, which measures about 1,600 square feet, is now assessed at $785,200. If short-term rentals were restricted, they would have to consider selling and moving off island. “It’s really scary,” she said. “I don’t want to think about it.”

Most of her guests stay for only a few days at a time; many can’t afford to stay longer. Renting for less than a week “opens it up to people who maybe have less of a budget but still enjoy the island,” she said. “I think it’s almost discriminatory to say you have to stay the week.” On an island where hotel rooms are exorbitantly expensive, she added, limiting short-term rentals “changes the demographic of who can visit Nantucket, basically.”

Bowing to complaints, ACK Now amended Article 90 at the Town Meeting, lifting most of the limits on year-round residents who rent out their homes.

Mr. Levenson said that even with the change, the reduction in tourists “would devastate this island.” He has been vacationing on Nantucket for more than 50 years and spends every summer at his home there.

Around 2008, he started buying Nantucket properties, he said. He planned to flip the houses but decided to rent them out instead. They rent for up to $31,000 a week in peak season.

He said it is unfair to blame the party houses on short-term rentals. “They’re saying it’s only short-term rental people that do things like that,” he said. “I find that really hard to believe.”

A report by the Donahue Institute, a consulting, research and policy organization at UMass Amherst, estimated that Nantucket can expect $8 million to $9 million annually from short-term rental taxes. The study was commissioned and paid for by Mr. Levenson’s group. In a full-page advertisement in the local newspaper, ACK Now called the study “pure hogwash.”

“The local businesses don’t need this short-term rental business in order to survive,” said Mr. McCausland. “I can’t even get into a restaurant on Nantucket. They’re all booked up weeks in advance.”

Impassioned arguments like these raged under the white tents on Saturday before the vote was taken. In the end, the nays won, 625 to 297, and Article 90 was defeated. The battle over Nantucket’s short-term rentals, however, isn’t over.

Mr. Glidden attributed the loss to “the real-estate lobby,” but said many of Nantucket’s articles take years to pass. “This is just an opportunity to come back next year.”

His opposition isn’t backing down either. “None of us can be complacent,” said Ms. Chapa.

Mr. Levenson said he hoped ACK Now would give up their crusade. “It’s a small island,” he said. “Why do they want to fight?”

But to Mr. McCausland, the battle has just gotten started.

“This issue isn’t going away,” said Mr. McCausland. “And we’re not going away.”

Towns Pay Little to Develop Affordable Apartments


Towns Pay Little to Develop Affordable Apartments

Large projects are a bargain, but finding land is the problem

By Paul Benson Jun 2, 2021

PROVINCETOWN — For Outer Cape communities that have been relentlessly squeezed by the housing crisis, producing new housing has been a primary poli response.  In particular, affordable housing developments — what’s sometimes called “big-A affordable housing,” (the word affordable has a precise legal meaning) — have been a centerpiece strategy.

One reason for this is that such projects can be surprisingly affordable for the towns themselves.   A review of documents for four different projects — two that are complete, and two more that are in planning stages — shows that state and federal funds make up the lion’s share of the projects’ costs. Towns themselves generally contribute 10 percent or less of the total cost of these affordable housing units.

The town’s contribution usually takes the form of land, which is either sold cheaply or leased for 99 years to the project developer. Some projects involve a cash infusion of a half million dollars or so, typically in the form of a Community Preservation Act grant. The limiting factor for this kind of housing isn’t really money: it’s finding suitable land, experienced developers, and the time it takes to bring these projects to completion.

Province Landing, Nauset Green

The documents for two completed affordable housing developments show how the blend of funding sources works. Province Landing in Provincetown was built on 2.6 acres that the town acquired from Cumberland Farms for $1 million. All 50 apartments are for people making less than 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) — currently, 80 percent is $62,200 per year for a two-person household, or $54,450 for one person.

Provincetown didn’t directly contribute to the project beyond purchasing the land. Most of the funding came from a complex array of state and federal tax credits for the development of big-A affordable housing. The Community Builders of Boston, developer of the project, did take out a 20-year mortgage, but only for $4.5 million, a third of the total project cost.

Rents are controlled rents on the 50 apartments, but are enough to cover that mortgage, the operating and maintenance costs, and a modest profit, the documents show. After that, the mortgage will be paid off, and the developer will earn a steady return for the rest of the 99-year lease. Because of the state and federal money, the town’s contribution comes to $20,000 per apartment.

Nauset Green in Eastham shows the same pattern. The 65 apartments there cost $23 million total, but the town contributed just $1.8 million in the form of land and cash. Wellfleet and Orleans each kicked in $100,000. The direct municipal contributions come out to about $31,000 per apartment, and they have to be rented at controlled rates for 99 years.

Cloverleaf and VFW

The Cloverleaf project in Truro works out to be even cheaper for the town, because the land was free. The 3.9 acres on Highland Road at Route 6 had been reserved by the state Dept. of Transportation for an interchange that was never built; they were transferred to Truro specifically for construction of affordable housing. The $12.1-million bid to build the project, from Community Housing Resource Inc. of Provincetown, includes a $480,000 contribution from the town.

The exact mix of tenant incomes wasn’t specified in the comprehensive permit from the zoning board, but the 39 Cloverleaf apartments are projected to include six at market rate and the other 33 at deed-restricted low rates. Counting only the 33 as “affordable,” the town would be paying $14,500 per apartment in direct contributions.

Provincetown acquired the VFW parcel for $900,000 and is now issuing a request for proposals from affordable housing developers. Consultant JM Goldson developed a variety of potential site design and cost estimates, but one baseline model was for 44 units of affordable housing, with a town contribution of $500,000, plus the 99-year lease. At that rate, the town would be in for $1.4 million, which would come to $32,000 per apartment.

An Apartment for 30K

There’s not a lot a town can buy for $30,000 these days. Compared to other major purchases, large affordable housing developments are inexpensive.

But large, cheap, suitable parcels of land don’t come along every day. The smallest of these parcels is the VFW lot, at 1.3 acres. Nauset Green sits on 11 acres. A couple of recently acquired large parcels have potential — the 70-acre Walsh property in Truro and the 11-acre T-Time parcel in Eastham. But these are exceptions to the rule on the Outer Cape: towns have little access to cheap, buildable land.

All three candidates for Provincetown Select Board in the recent election, including the winner, Leslie Sandberg, talked about “pulling out the map” and finding creative ways to repurpose existing town-owned land for housing. The focus is on existing assets because, unless a seller specifically wants to cut the town a deal, it’s expensive to buy large parcels at market rate.

The other limitation is time. It can take many years to guide an affordable housing project from conception to move-in day. Hundreds of properties are sold every year on the Outer Cape, and the new market rates are fundamentally tied to potential income from short-term rentals — not to incomes earned locally. It has not so far been possible to add units, affordable or otherwise, at anything like the speed at which units are leaving the livable inventory.

Who Builds Affordable Housing Here?


The list of interested developers on the Outer Cape is short

By Christine Legere May 26, 2021

The list of developers expressing interest in a handful of affordable housing initiatives now in the works on Outer Cape Cod will likely be short. Taking on such a project requires complex skills and deep pockets.

Only three developers have built and managed sizable affordable rental projects in the last 20 years here: Community Housing Resource Inc., owned by Provincetown businessman Ted Malone; the Community Builders, a Boston-based nonprofit; and, most recently, Pennrose, a national affordable housing developer based in Philadelphia.

In the Works

Provincetown is preparing to invite proposals for the 1.3-acre VFW property on Jerome Smith Road in the next couple of weeks. The draft calls for a minimum of 44 rental units, said Town Manager Alex Morse.

“In Provincetown, land is not plentiful,” Morse said. “We need to make sure we fully utilize the site.” Morse said Monday he planned to urge the select board to maximize use of the land. A developer could potentially fit more than 70 units on the site, he said.

Half of the units would be priced for tenants earning less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). With AMI currently at $77,750 for Barnstable County, the maximum income for a household of two would be $62,200. The other half of the units would be reserved for those earning above 80 percent of AMI, making them available to many people who work in Provincetown.

Wellfleet recently invited proposals for a 46-unit rental development on town-owned land at 95 Lawrence Road. Applicants must turn in proposals by early August.

In Eastham, officials are looking at various uses for the former T-Time driving range property. Whatever the decision, some of the site will be used for affordable housing, according to Eastham Town Planner Paul Lagg.

What It Takes

A big project with most of the units priced for low- to moderate-income tenants can take five years or more from start to finish. The developer must navigate a complicated funding process at the federal, state, and local levels, involving tax credits, a variety of public and private loans, and, frequently, contributions of land along with funds from the local community preservation and affordable housing trust funds.

“I think it’s mostly driven by the reality of financing,” Lagg said. “The primary financing tool is the state low-income housing tax credits. The number is limited. There is a lot of overhead, a lot of paperwork, and a lot has to happen for the state process. It lends itself to larger companies.”

Charlie Adams, regional vice president of Pennrose, said, “Readiness to proceed is the key driver with the state. You have to have the financial and personnel capacity for that.”

It usually takes two years to get through initial design and permitting before a developer can even get to the funding phase. Meanwhile, a great deal of money is being spent with no revenue, such as monthly rents, to offset expenses. The estimated cost is $350,000 to $400,000 per unit.

“It’s more than just construction costs,” said Ted Malone, president of Community Development Resource, which has built several affordable projects on the Outer Cape. “It’s architectural and engineering fees, financing fees, loan interest and pre-development costs. And there are also legal costs.”

Engineering for the Cloverleaf, a $14-million project Malone’s company is working on in Truro, cost over $200,000, Malone said. Now, it’s stalled by a lawsuit by neighbors.

The developer is also responsible for managing the property once it is built. Management costs run about $8,000 per unit, said Malone.

“We are losing more year-round housing than we are building,” said Alisa Magnotta, CEO of the Housing Assistance Corp. in an email. According to December 2020 figures published by the Dept. of Housing and Community Development, Eastham has 119 units of affordable housing, or 4.5 percent of its overall housing stock; Truro has 25 units, or 2.3 percent of its total stock; Wellfleet has 38 units, 2.5 percent of its stock; and Provincetown has 206 affordable units, 9.7 percent of its overall stock. The state’s standard is for communities to have at least 10 percent of their housing categorized as affordable.

Demand for these units far outstrips availability. More than 100 applications were submitted for 23 units at Stable Path, Provincetown. Nearly 300 recently applied for the 65 units in Eastham’s Nauset Green.

The Major Players

Ted Malone has been building and managing affordable projects on the Outer Cape since 1996. Community Housing Resource boasts the largest number of such projects in the region, with the most recent being Stable Path in Provincetown. The $8 million project, completed in 2016, consists of 23 units in 10 buildings, situated on two acres off Race Point Road. Sixteen serve households with incomes below 60 percent of AMI ($46,650 for a two-member household).

Malone’s company built and manages 18 rental units and 10 artist studios on Old Ann Page Way on the site of the former A&P in Provincetown. Malone also purchased and overhauled a former dormitory building at 83 Shank Painter Road, converting it to 13 efficiency units and 2 one-bedroom apartments.

In Truro, in addition to the proposed 39-unit Cloverleaf project, Community Housing Resource built the $4.2-million Sally’s Way complex, with 16 townhouse-style rental units on land leased from the town.

In Wellfleet, Malone’s Paine Hollow Road plan to build eight affordable rental apartments is stalled in court. His company also built and manages a six-unit complex on Gull Pond Road in Wellfleet.

Designing a project that blends in with its surroundings is important to Malone. He uses smaller buildings and careful landscaping, he said. “Making something that is aesthetically pleasing and fits into the Cape’s environment and community is a given, in my mind,” Malone said. “A little more density doesn’t have to mean lower quality. I’m proud of our communities.”

The Community Builders built and manages Province Landing, a 50-unit affordable housing complex that opened in 2012 on the former Cumberland Farms site in Provincetown. The town kept ownership of the property and has a 99-year lease with the nonprofit. All units in the $14.5-million project, housed in six two-story Cape-style buildings, are rented below the AMI and most are reserved for tenants making less than 60 percent of it. The nonprofit has no other projects on the Outer Cape, but has built and manages mixed-income complexes in Chatham, Sandwich, and Mashpee. The Community Builders also operates in the Mid-Atlantic states and Midwest.

Pennrose, a national company that has been building and managing affordable housing since 1971, finished its first project on Cape Cod in 2020, the $23-million Village at Nauset Green in Eastham. Fifty of the 65 units are for tenants who earn below 60 percent of AMI. The remaining 15 are categorized as workforce housing. Eastham has kept ownership of the land and awarded the project to Pennrose via an RFP process.

“When towns put out RFPs, they are articulating what their vision is,” said Adams, the company’s vice president. “It becomes a shared vision, working with towns to get what the community is looking for.”

The RFP called for five units for tenants making up to 120 percent of the AMI.

“The RFP made specific requests with broad parameters for design and amenities,” said Town Planner Lagg. One of those was to create the look of a cluster-style village with townhouse apartments. “The town owning the land is a major saving for the developer, and they can put that money into the design,” the planner said.

Pennrose recently purchased the Cape Cod 5 Bank property in Orleans and has permits for a similar project, with the majority of the 62 units for tenants making 60 percent of AMI. Adams said Pennrose will now begin the funding process.

Other Players

Preservation of Affordable Housing, a large nonprofit known as POAH, has partnered with the Housing Assistance Corp. for several affordable rental projects in other areas of Cape Cod. While it currently doesn’t have projects on the Outer Cape, its latest project is Brewster Woods, a 30-unit affordable housing complex on Brewster Housing Authority land.

“When we look at projects, we’re looking to partner with a community-based organization to make sure we’re addressing local outreach,” said Aaron Gornstein, POAH’s president and CEO. “There’s a mission to maximize affordable housing, and our priority is to manage the property as effectively as we can and keep the affordability.”

POAH purchased two older properties on the Lower Cape, each with more than 100 units, where the affordable restrictions would be ending. The organization refurbished the buildings and continued affordable rents for the tenants. “We are a large organization,” Gornstein said. “We have the staffing and a strong balance sheet.”

The Stratford Capital Group has also been looking to establish itself on the Outer Cape. It purchased the T-Time driving range property in Eastham, where it planned to construct a 50-unit apartment complex in three-story buildings. The project faced local opposition, and Stratford ultimately sold the property to the town.

Stratford also submitted a proposal, which was not successful, for the Nauset Green site.

Wellfleet recognized for commitment to affordable housing


Wendy Cullinan, left, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Cape Cod, presents Elaine McIlroy, chairwoman of the Wellfleet Housing Authority, with the Community Partner Award for 2020. McIlroy accepted the award on behalf of the town of Wellfleet.

By Denise Coffey /

WELLFLEET — The first Habitat for Humanity home built on Cape Cod was built in Wellfleet and dedicated in November 1989.

Elaine McIlroy, chairwoman of the Wellfleet Housing Authority, has always been proud to point that out. She’s been an advocate for affordable housing efforts for more than a decade.

On Friday, she accepted Habitat’s Community Partner Award on behalf of the town. Select Board Chairman Michael DeVasto will formally accept the award at a virtual Zoom meeting on Oct. 1, when Habitat holds its annual meeting.

“The town has been very generous,” Habitat Executive Director Wendy Cullinan said.

Money from the Wellfleet Housing Authority, as well as local Community Preservation Act funding, helped secure the property and fund early construction of the latest Habitat homes in Wellfleet. The two-bedroom and three-bedroom LEED-certified homes, complete with solar panels, were built on Durkee Lane.

Owners of the homes will close on the properties this week.

“All our interactions with the town were so supportive,” Cullinan said.

The two homes bring the total number of Habitat Homes in Wellfleet to seven. The Housing Authority awarded a contract to Habitat to build four homes on a parcel of land off Old Kings Highway, but that project is on hold. Abutters have filed a lawsuit against the issuance of a building permit.

The shortage of affordable housing on the Cape is well documented. According to Habitat for Humanity, the Cape has higher than average housing prices and lower than average wages, creating a wide “affordability gap” that promises to get bigger with real estate sales spiking since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That spells more challenges for a cadre of workers who keep the tourist economy running, care for aging residents and do a host of other essential jobs that pay relatively poorly.

“We’ve been reading headlines about homes selling faster than ever,” McIlroy said. “We’re so quickly removing homes from the potential market for rentals, and we’re driving up prices.”

Median home prices in Wellfleet are $596,101 according to the real estate website Zillow. Wellfleet home values have gone up 1.5% over the past year and Zillow predicts they will rise 3.6% in 2021.

A three-bedroom Habitat home on Cape Cod costs a homeowner an average of $146,250, with monthly payments between $650 and $800 per month. The homes in Wellfleet cost Habitat about $175,000 to build because of solar panels built onto the roofs.

McIlroy called Habitat the only entity on the Cape willing to build just a few homes at a time for ownership.

“Habitat has this amazing model to build beautiful homes using high quality materials, with volunteer labor and generous donors,” she said. “Habitat has people who believe in what they do.”

Habitat received 45 applications for the two Wellfleet homes.

Cullinen called the discrepancy between wages and housing costs outrageous.

“Affordable housing needs to be on everyone’s minds,” she said.

Wellfleet voters approved a $3.8 million water system upgrade at town meeting Sept. 6. The project could make it feasible for the town to build 46 units of affordable housing on Lawrence Road.

Another parcel of land was given to the housing authority at last year’s town meeting. McIlroy said the housing authority is trying to acquire more land, through purchase or donation, before they send out a request for proposals for a developer to build one or a few homes.

Ideally, Habitat would bid on the project, she said.

HAC streamlines mortgage, rent assistance

HAC streamlines mortgage, rent assistance

ORLEANS — Some would say it’s a challenge to keep a roof over your head even in the best of times across Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties, which are the areas served by the Housing Assistance Corp. (HAC), a nonprofit that is seeing big increases in requests for financial aid.

With unemployment rates stuck in the double-digits across the Lower and Outer Cape (see the chart below), it’s no wonder that requests for financial help with mortgage and rent payments are spiking.

The need is so great, says the Hyannis-based organization, it has launched a new online application process to streamline assistance for those unable to make payments.

Available at, the application enables residents to complete one form to access multiple public and private funding programs in one fell swoop.

HAC said it has in excess of $1.5 million to distribute to qualified, year-round residents.

“We are advocating for funding for the entire Cape and Islands region and demonstrating that Housing Assistance has region-wide solutions that efficiently and effectively serve people whose housing is in danger today,” Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta said in a statement.

Public sources of funding accessible to Housing Assistance include RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) and ERMA (Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance), which is a new state fund created this year to provide direct funding to eligible households that have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic State of Emergency put into place earlier this year.

In addition to these state sources, HAC has its own Private Homeless Prevention program, which provides one-time emergency financial assistance for individuals and families who don’t qualify for public funding but need support to stay in their homes.

And last April HAC created the Workforce Housing Relief Fund, an expansion of its prevention program, to cover up to three months’ rent or mortgage payments for those financially impacted by the pandemic.

“We can make our public dollars go further by leveraging our organization’s infrastructure and efficiencies,” Magnotta said. “Housing Assistance already has the staff, technology, processes, and expertise in place so that we can take action to assist residents in need immediately.”

When compared to the same period last year, beginning with the mid-March shutdown, Housing Assistance has seen a 325 percent increase in foreclosure prevention requests and a 413 percent increase in requests for help with past-due rent.

Put into actual people numbers: In 2019 12 households sought help to make mortgage payments between mid-March and the end of June, and in those same months this year the number is 51.

Renters needing help rose during the same time period; those in arrears who requested help in 2019 totaled 46, and in 2020 the number jumped to 236.

Here’s a round-up of available assistance; eligibility criteria varies somewhat:

* With the state-funded RAFT, eligible clients will demonstrate 1) loss of income or increase in expenses that has caused housing instability, 2) that they do not have other resources to make the payment, and 3) that the payment will stabilize their housing. Payments are made directly to landlord, mortgage company or other vendor. Eligible clients can make up to 50 percent of Area Median Income. In Barnstable County that translates to $43,500 for a three-person household, for example.

* Under ERMA, eligible clients can make between 50 percent and 80 percent of Area Median Income. The limit for a three-person household in Barnstable County is $69,600.

* With the Workforce Housing Assistance Fund, eligible clients can make up to 100 percent of Area Median Income, and must not be eligible for other state, federal or local relief. Priority is given to clients impacted by COVID or the related economic downturn. Locally, a three-person household with income up to $87,000 can be eligible.

* With HAC’s Private Prevention program, up to $500 can be dispensed to help keep a client housed. There is no annual income limitation for this program. However, eligible clients will have to demonstrate loss of income or increase in expenses that has caused housing instability; that they do not have other resources to make the payment, and that the payment will stabilize their housing. Payments are made directly to a landlord, mortgage company or other vendor.

Residents who need support with their rent or mortgage payments can contact Housing Assistance at 508-771-5400 or email


rates as of July 11

Truro: 18 percent

Provincetown: 15 percent

Harwich: 15 percent

Chatham: 14 percent

Eastham: 14 percent

Wellfleet: 13 percent

Orleans: 13 percent

Brewster: 12 percent

Source: Pioneer Institute, Boston-based public research group

Housing Assistance Launches Online Application for Rental and Mortgage Funding

Housing Assistance Launches Online Application for Rental and Mortgage Funding

HYANNIS – Housing Assistance Corporation has launched an online application for rental and mortgage assistance that will allow clients to fill out one application form to access multiple different financial assistance programs.

$1,500,000 in funding from the programs is available for qualified, year-round residents including Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance, Homebuilders of Cape Cod Fund, town specific funds, and the HAC Workforce Housing Relief Fund.

Staff from HAC will work remotely with clients to determine the programs that are a best fit for the client’s situation, as well as help the client navigate existing systems for assistance.

HAC said that it is ready to offer assistance as the eviction moratorium and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Insurance comes to an end.

Those in need of assistance with rent or mortgage can contact Housing Assistance at 508 771-5400 or email

The new online application can be found here.

Outer Cape residents seek answers on new rental housing in Eastham

Outer Cape residents seek answers on new rental housing in Eastham

By Mary Ann Bragg
Jul 21, 2019

EASTHAM — Eastham resident Laura Simmons is looking for a reasonably priced place to rent, and so are James Gotham and Jacquelyn Miller.

“I have to get out of my place by October,” said Simmons, who cares for her parents in Plymouth and a man in Orleans and works at a drugstore. “I’m a little nervous. I’ve been there seven years. Everything is temporary, but I didn’t think it would be this quick.”

Most seats were taken at an information session Thursday about the new 65-unit Village at Nauset Green rental housing development on Brackett Road. Although reservations for the meeting at the Elks Lodge in Eastham weren’t required, a little over 100 people told Pennrose, the housing developer, they were coming.

More than that actually showed up.

“There’s definitely a significant need,” Karmen Cheung, an associate developer for Pennrose, said.

Eastham has about 6,000 places to live, but the use and occupancy of those residences is skewed toward seasonal use by the people who own houses, such as retirees and second-home owners, according to the town’s housing production plan. Homes in Eastham tend to sell at higher prices than both the county and state averages, and the number of year-round rentals in Eastham is very low.

“More subsidized rental housing is necessary to make living in Eastham more affordable, particularly for those with very limited financial means,” according to the housing plan in identifying the town’s first priority.

The $23 million Village at Nauset Green development, located on town land, is a move in that direction, according to town officials.

“It’s something we all need here, especially down this end of the Cape,” said Miller, who was with her daughter Olivia, 10. “We do rent, but the rent would be half of what we’re paying now.”

Eastham resident Marie Collins is looking for alternatives, too, but for a friend who has multiple sclerosis and who needs to find another place to live.

“So, I’m trying to find her a place,” Collins said. Her friend has filled out the pre-application form that Pennrose requests. She and her friend have taken all the other steps that are needed, Collins said. Pennrose is accepting pre-applications through Sept. 3, and a lottery two days later will determine who goes forward in the screening process.

“We’re going to keep our fingers crossed that she gets in here, and then I’ll help her move,” Collins said.

With 18 residential buildings, and four apartments per building, the development is meant to give a sense of a village, according to Pennrose and town officials. The property will have a walking trail, lawns, a playground, picnic tables, a bus shelter, mailboxes, a community garden and other amenities. There are 27 one-bedroom apartments, 31 two-bedroom apartments, seven three-bedroom apartments and a community building, with a reception area and management offices.

Eligibility to move in is based on the number of people in the household, the total annual household income, credit and criminal background checks, in-person interviews including pets, and other criteria. Generally, incomes need to fall at or below 90 percent of the annual median income for Barnstable County. For example, at the 90-percent level, a two-person household could earn a maximum of $65,700 qualifying annual household income to be considered for the housing.

Residents of Eastham, Wellfleet and Orleans will receive some preferential treatment in the application process, according to Pennrose.

“This is harder than actually buying a house,” said Gotham, a house remodeler who said he has lived on the Cape for 50 years. “I’ve been homeless for two years.” He said he lives in each home while he fixes it up, but then he has to move on. This time, he said, he has to be out by Oct. 1.

“I’m really, really aggravated about this process,” Gotham said. “They want everything.” Landlord testimony, for example, would be difficult for him, given his living situation, he said.

At least two people said they worried about the pet policy, specifically for dogs, with the limit of 35 pounds per animal and a maximum of two animals for each apartment.

The Eastham Board of Selectmen began negotiations in mid-2016 with Pennrose, which is based in Philadelphia. The town owned the land since 2001 but had never been able to attract a developer to submit a proposal for affordable housing there. That changed in 2016 when the new municipal water system allowed for increased density in the area.

Late in 2017, the state announced the housing development would receive $10 million over 10 years in federal low-income housing tax credits and $875,000 from the state for five years. At annual town meetings in Eastham, voters approved $750,000 in Community Preservation Act money for the development. Because the project is considered a regional effort, town meetings in Wellfleet and Orleans each contributed $100,000 in preservation act money this year as well.

Wellfleet housing ‘can happen here’

Wellfleet Housing ‘Can Happen Here’

By Edward Miller
March 21, 2019


The proposed site for community housing is across from the elementary school, has town water and is within walking distance of the Wellfleet center.

WELLFLEET — Two large affordable housing projects are going forward in Truro and Eastham, and the same “can happen here,” a seasoned development lawyer told the crowd that assembled Monday evening to learn about a proposal for community housing in Wellfleet.

Voters will have a chance to set the project at 95 Lawrence Road in motion at the April 22 annual town meeting. The select board and planning board have both unanimously endorsed a warrant article authorizing the use of up to six acres of the 9.3-acre town-owned parcel across from the Wellfleet Elementary School for community housing by negotiating a long-term lease of the land to a developer.

Jeff Sacks, the attorney, is a partner at the firm Nixon Peabody with 35 years of experience in housing development. He told the 70 or more people who crowded into the Council on Aging Monday that the timing was good for potentially securing both federal and state funding for the project. Sacks lives in Newton, where he served on that city’s housing authority for 22 years; he also owns a house in Wellfleet. He noted that Wellfleet ranks last among Cape Cod towns with just 1.9 percent of its housing stock classified as affordable.

“We can take advantage of state and federal resources that are competitively awarded,” Sacks said. “It’s very important to pay attention to funding rounds. Massachusetts just passed a bond issue to fund all these programs. If this is approved by the town in April, a developer could be ready in February or March of 2020.”

Sacks explained that the developer of the project would be responsible for putting the financing together. The town and the developer would need to work together to align the project’s goals with those of the available state and federal resources.

Monday’s forum also offered presentations by the Wellfleet Housing Authority and Local Housing Partnership, which have spearheaded the proposal. Sharon Rule-Agger of the housing partnership summarized the well-documented need for rental housing in town, noting that between 1990 and 2015 Wellfleet had lost 62 percent of its residents ages 25 to 44.

“We continue to lose them,” she said. “We’re losing year-round housing at an alarming rate to second homes. Rents are rising much faster than income. Many people are paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing.”

The needs of aging residents are also not being met, said Rule-Agger. “Some find their houses are too large and expensive to maintain, and they are unable to find alternative housing in town.”

Local employers are finding it harder to attract and retain workers, she said: “If we do nothing we will find ourselves paying more and more for goods and services that become more and more scarce.”

The town’s 2017 housing needs assessment and action plan called for the development of 60 affordable units over the next 10 years, with 75 percent of them rentals with one to three bedrooms. A feasibility study of the Lawrence Road parcel by Coastal Engineering found that “it has the capacity for reasonable density on a standard septic system,” said Rule-Agger. “It’s on town water, it’s accessible from both Lawrence Road and Long Pond Road, it’s relatively level, and it’s within walking distance of the school, public transportation and the town center.”

No decisions about the design of the project would be made until after the town meeting vote, she said. Next would come a series of public sessions for townspeople to express their desires and concerns, followed by the writing of requests for proposals from potential developers.

Some ideas for the project are already on the table: that it should include a mix of dwelling sizes and rents to suit a range of incomes, including market rate units; serve people with young children and teenagers as well as the elderly; support the needs of town employees; maximize energy efficiency; ensure the safety of the adjoining school playing fields; provide for onsite management; maximize preference for local residents; and achieve “right-size design.”

The state’s fair housing laws limit the extent of local preference to a maximum of 70 percent of the units, which can be reserved for current town residents, town employees and families with children in the local schools, Sacks said.

“I started my life in rental housing,” said housing authority chair Elaine McIlroy. “Is there anybody here who didn’t?”

No hands were raised.

“Right now we don’t have any,” she continued. “This project and planning for it will give us a good reason to come together and talk about a vision for the town.”

When the meeting was opened to questions from the audience, almost every speaker began by saying he or she supported the proposal.

John Morrissey questioned the idea that the project could be completed “at little or no cost to the town. What does that mean?”

Sacks reviewed the finances for Truro’s current 41-unit Cloverleaf project, which is being developed by Community Housing Resource of Provincetown. He pointed out that just five percent of the $12.1 million budget was coming from the town in the form of Community Preservation Act funds. And the 65-unit Pennrose project in Eastham “looks very much like this,” he added.

Morrissey persisted. “Do towns run into problems?” he asked.

“Towns always run into problems,” Sacks said. “Real estate development is a complex, long-term project. If this goes well it won’t be completed for three years. Some of the federal resources could disappear in Trump’s budget. What this warrant article does is put the town in a position to make this happen. If things go well, in three or four years families could be living there.”

“What happens if the developer goes bankrupt?” asked David Psathas.

“You plan for that not to happen,” said Sacks. “Developers do go out of business. But the lease will give the town some important hooks. There will be promises on how it is maintained. There will be a lot of stakeholders that will make a difference. All these different funders are going to care about it running well. The benefit of having all these parties invest in the town is their interest in having it look good.”

“We have to change our idea of what community housing looks like and who needs it,” said select board chair Janet Reinhart. “This is going to be well done. We’re going to be proud of it.”

Sharon Rule-Agger and Susan Spear of the local housing partnership. Mia Baumgarten, of the housing authority, is in the background.