BREWSTER – It took five years, but the evidence of progress is everywhere.
The newly paved access road flanked by cement footings for the lampposts. The lots cleared with white septic tanks and water pipes protruding from the ground.
With the infrastructure in place, construction of 30 affordable one, two and three bedroom rental units in what is known as Brewster Woods is imminent. Sheltering from the scorching sun, under a tent in front of dozens of local, regional and state officials who helped make this possible, U.S. Representative William Keating, D-Mass., Acknowledged that the dedication ceremony was indeed an occasion to celebrate.
But it was also an opportunity to re-engage in the effort to build and find housing.
Solve the housing crisis “room by room”
“It’s a stepping stone to meeting the needs we have,” Keating said Tuesday of what he called a national affordable housing crisis that Cape Town and the Islands have been experiencing for decades. But how that will be resolved is piece by piece, Keating told the audience, with developments like Brewster Woods.
“Today we are changing the lives of about 60 people in those 30 units, and you say that number is not big enough, but it sure is if you are one of those people.”
Brewster Woods was developed on city-owned land by Housing Assistance Corp. and Preservation of Affordable Housing, and will consist of eight one-bedroom units, 19 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units.
Construction is expected to be completed by next summer and tenants will be selected by lot.
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Potential tenants can only qualify in two categories: up to 30% of the region’s median income ($ 20,300 for one person up to $ 35,160 for six); or up to 60% of median income ($ 40,620 for one person up to $ 67,260 for a family of six). Rents are estimated at $ 1,087 per month for a two-bedroom apartment for those with a median income of 30% and $ 1,305 for a two-bedroom apartment for those who make up to 60% of the median income.
It takes a lot of work, both financially and logistically, on the part of people at all levels of government and finance to complete one of these projects, including: a MassWorks State Grant of 1 , $ 68 million paid for site clean-up and infrastructure; a $ 2.4 million loan from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership; $ 1 million in MassHousing Affordable Housing Trust Fund; $ 1 million in funding from the State Department of Housing and Community Development; $ 750,000 in local and state HOME funding; and $ 255,000 in Brewster Community Preservation Act money.
Keating urges other cities to act
Keating commended Brewster for actively seeking the funding he needed to complete the project. He urged other cities that now is the time to act. Money from the American Rescue Plan Act of March 2021 was available to help with housing issues, but Keating said the cash infusion will not last forever.
“We have to seize the opportunity and be as aggressive as possible,” he said.
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Housing costs in Cape Town were already high before the pandemic, but fueled in part by demand from residents outside Cape Town to move to rural areas that are relatively safe for COVID-19, housing costs in Cape Town have increased. climbed 27% this year with a median selling price of $ 560,000. Median selling prices on Martha’s Vineyard jumped to $ 1.5 million and $ 2.18 million on Nantucket. The median selling price in Chatham is $ 1.78 million.
The inventory of home rentals and sales is low and Cape Town needs more than 4,500 rental units, local housing experts have said.
“Our life force is affected by our ability to have a home,” Keating said. “We’re going to lose… businesses; we’re going to lose those jobs, and we’re going to lose them because of the housing shortage.
“The housing crisis is a term we use a lot,” Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy said. He pointed to Governor Charlie Baker’s recently successful housing legislation that allowed a simple majority vote, instead of the dreaded barrier of a qualified majority, for cities to change zoning to create affordable housing. The legislation also required a bond of $ 50,000 from those who wish to sue to prevent cities from building affordable housing in their neighborhood.
Baker also recently proposed allocating $ 1 billion in federal housing funds with an equal split between homeownership and renting.
State Representative Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, said he moved to Cape Town with his wife when he was 39. Both worked full time and were able to buy a house.
“But looking at the Zillow rating on my property in Brewster, I couldn’t afford it today,” he told the public at the opening. Whelan said he has two adult daughters who both graduated from Nauset Regional High School and now live off Cape Town, like many of their generation who cannot find affordable housing.
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“My family, we are victims of the great Cape Cod diaspora… the great emigration of our young people from Cape Town because they cannot afford to live here,” said Whelan. “This project here is part of the solution.
Whelan said that even $ 1 billion is distributed fairly thinly among the state’s 351 communities. He said it was important for cities to take action now to preserve themselves as communities year round. Cities needed to prioritize affordable housing and consider spending more money, like Community Preservation Act funds and short-term rental tax revenues.
Need to pick up the pace
Brewster has been one of Cape Town‘s most active cities in affordable housing development with almost 6% of its year-round housing stock registered with the state as affordable. They recently negotiated with developers for 27 affordable housing units out of 132 rental units being renovated into housing for 55+ in a former nursing home. The city is also working on a request for proposals for up to 90 bedroom affordable housing on 16 acres of city-owned land on Millstone Road.
Jay Coburn, president of the Community Development Partnership, agreed Cape Town is at a critical point and needs to pick up the pace.
“This project is incredible. It’s a beautiful site, but we can’t do a 30-unit project every six years, ”said Coburn. “We have to have an innovation like this every year in every city two to three times this size. “
He said Cape Town was similar to Boston in terms of ownership and development costs. Cities should build in city centers, with greater density made possible by the development of sanitation infrastructure, he said.
“In all communities we will need grants and I think the governor has been very bold with (setting aside) $ 1 billion (for housing),” Coburn said. “But it really depends on city meetings, planning boards and zoning boards, and it depends on community leaders. “
Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter: @dougfrasercct