People have lots of questions (and opinions) about affordable housing. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation that is taken for fact. We want to present you with answers to many of the questions that come up regarding affordable housing. When possible, we’ll provide you with links to other resources, to help you understand the intricacies of this very important issue. We invite you to send us an e-mail with a question, and we will do our best to post a response on this page. This is not a blog where opinions will be posted. It is a legitimate source of information intended to further the important job of educating communities on the benefits of affordable housing.
Q. People say there really isn’t a need for affordable housing. Sounds to me like it’s a way off-base comment to be making, even if the real estate market has cooled. Can you shed some light?
A. Saying there isn’t a need for affordable housing is an off-base comment, frankly a foolish one. Click here to read our latest Housing Needs Update that has been provided to the Town of Provincetown Planning Board.
Q. Shouldn’t affordable housing be reserved solely for the people who live in the town where it is built?
A. The terminology that applies for this is “Local Preference”. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (through the Department of Housing and Community Development) has a mandate for all towns/municipalities to have 10% of their housing stock deed restricted as affordable. In order for the housing to be counted as part of the affordable housing inventory, not more than 70% of any development can be reserved for “Local Preference” and the remaining 30% must be made available without regard to “Local Preference”. All of the housing is subject to “Affirmative Marketing” requirements under Fair Housing Laws. Under federal regulations, “Local Preference” can never exclude a current resident based on the duration of their residency. Within this 70% set aside for “Local Preference”, there can be additional rules and regulations that apply which narrow the definition of “Local Preference”. Provincetown’s has a definition of “Local Preference” that is narrower than most towns and that is the definition that all must follow. The following is Provincetown’s policy:
Board of Selectmen approved policy on Local Preference for Affordable Housing, November 24, 2008:
2008-11-24 (Replacing Policy Statement #2003-09-08)
Local Preference for Affordable and Community Housing
It shall be the policy of the Provincetown Board of Selectmen: That for all affordable housing projects which receive a favorable determination by the Community Housing Council [formerly by the Local Housing Partnership], and are thus able to advance to the front of the Growth Management queue to be in position to receive their building permits, and/or receive other assistance such as funding from the Community Preservation Program or the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, that these affordable units shall be rented (or sold) giving the maximum preference allowed by law to:
- current residents of the Town of Provincetown that is, a household in which one or more members is currently residing in the Provincetown town limits at the time of application [documentation of residency should be provided, such as rent receipts, utility bills, street listing or voter registration listing],
- Municipal Employees: employees of the municipality, such as teachers, janitors, firefighters, police officers, librarians, or town hall employees,
- Employees of Local Businesses: employees of businesses, non-profits, and other entities located in the Town of Provincetown, and
- Households with children attending Provincetown schools
- subject to appropriate and acceptable documentation, a Provincetown resident may also be defined as an individual who is, or who has been, displaced from his or her home in Provincetown due to condominium conversion or the sale of his or her unit by the property owner.
all in accordance with the Regulatory Agreement to be executed pursuant to the requirements of the affordable housing deed restriction. This provision is intended to complement and not to override or supersede the fair marketing regulations of the Department of Housing and Community Development, Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination or any authority with jurisdiction and like purpose, to provide low/ moderate/ and or middle income housing.
Adopted: November 24, 2008
In favor: Michele Couture, Elaine Anderson, Mary-Jo Avellar, Austin Knight, David Bedard
In all of the CHR housing lotteries and rental housing selections, most of the 30% of applicant households selected without regard for “Local Preference” have local ties. Yes, housing for your neighbors, your relatives, your friends, your co-workers, not strangers! CHR always holds an Open House when it completes a new development, and the public has always been invited to attend. So, come on around next time, and if you don’t know your neighbor, it’s a great way to meet them, and see who really is living in a CHR home!
For more information, please visit the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development website, and the information regarding the Local Initiative Program.
Q. So, who are my neighbors in affordable housing? Who is on the list? What are their names?
A. Privacy laws do not allow us to give out the information. But here is what we are happy to tell you about your neighbors. Some of the multiple local occupations of our residents:
Local Not-for Profit
Local Service – Bar/Restaurant/Bakery/Gym/Banking/Beauty/Insurance/Retail
Currently, almost 14% of students enrolled in the Provincetown Public School System are living in a CHR home.
Just imagine what the face of Provincetown would really be like without what has been accomplished in the last 10 years. Once again, we just want to emphasize that affordable housing is a key element to keeping important, year-round, functional jobs in our community.
Q. Hasn’t CHR received close to a million dollars in Town of Provincetown money?
A. At the April 2009 Provincetown Town Meeting, CHR was awarded $150,000 for 15 units at 83 Shankpainter Road, and $800,000 for 32 units at Stable Path. These Community Preservation Act Funds directly benefit the residents of these developments through lower rents.
Q. The development on Sandy Hill Lane, Gull’s Nest, didn’t sell out! Doesn’t that mean Provincetown has enough affordable housing?
A. Not at all. The only units that did not sell out through the lottery were median income units. If those units were targeted to moderate income, there were more ready buyers. The state mandate is for every community to have, at minimum, 10% of their housing inventory as affordable. Provincetown has only reached 6.39% of this mandate.
What is happening more and more, especially on the Outer Cape, where real estate values are exceptionally steep, households that would be considered median-income are unable to afford to keep stable housing. Because of this, a category called “community housing” was added into the Provincetown Zoning By-Laws to expand eligibility, based on the recommendation of the Local Housing Partnership and the Affordable Housing Task Force, to address the needs of median-income households to rent or purchase a home. Because the median income eligibility category is new, additional marketing efforts are needed to inform a group who used to think of themselves as ineligible because they were above income limits. Now there are opportunities available to a wider range of incomes.
These homes still follow the definition of affordable, where the households would not be spending more than 30% of their income for rent/mortgage. Unfortunately, with a dwindling median-income group staying in the area, the median income category of homes at Sandy Hill did not attract enough qualified applicants into the lottery. Since Provincetown still has to reach the 10% mandate, and with over 400 households currently on our notification list for affordable opportunities, the need for affordable housing is just as great as it has always been. Click here for more on this topic. For more information on the Gull’s Nest development, we suggest you contact the developers of that property, Jerry Anathan or Cass Benson at 508.487.6555.
Q. Why are there lotteries for some developments and applications for others?
A. MA DHCD Local Initiative Program and most financing programs have guidelines that require a lottery for all affordable home ownership opportunities. In some communities, resale of deed restricted homes may be awarded to households who are on a “Ready-to-Buy” list. These lists can also be used if Affirmative Marketing and Outreach does not draw enough applicants for available homes. For affordable rental opportunities, it is the responsibility of the developer to have an Affirmative Marketing Plan with an application process that is consistent with Fair Housing Laws. Housing Authorities and some developers choose to select residents through a lottery process for income eligible applicants. CHR chooses a more involved process to select residents. CHR uses a detailed 10-page application and scores applicants based on a set of Uniformly Applied Selection Criteria. This process allows objective comparison of applicants to identify residents who will be good tenants and good neighbors in our communities. This Uniformly Applied Selection Criteria, CHR looks at various attributes that are important to maintain a stable community of residents, including community involvement, employment stability, references, financial responsibility, criminal records, etc. In addition, consideration is given to applicants with a housing hardship.