EASTHAM — It takes much more than a village to raise affordable and workforce housing like the Village at Nauset Green. To build this $23 million, 65-unit development, it takes three neighboring towns and federal, state and private partners, 11 in all. But most of all, it takes the determination of a community to stick with its vision of broadening its housing stock for well nigh two decades.
That persistence led to a groundbreaking ceremony Dec. 7 for a major development of 18 residential and one community building off Brackett Road with one-, two-, and three-bedroom rental apartments. Eastham Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe quoted Emerson: “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”
The town purchased the 11-acre site in 2001, but had to wait until until voters approved a public water system before it could pursue a developer in earnest. “We wanted a lot,” Beebe said of the 2016 request for proposals. “A village style, quality construction, a design that blended in with other neighbors, (a development) that would look, feel, and be safe, affordable, and welcoming.”
Enter Penrose, LLC, a company with conventional and affordable developments in 15 states and the District of Columbia but not then on Cape Cod. Beebe said Penrose regional V.P. Charlie Adams “took the time to really explore Eastham. He listened. He brought synergy to a project that had stalled.”
More synergy came from involving Eastham's neighbors, Orleans and Wellfleet. Each of the two towns earmarked $100,000 in community preservation funds, bolstering Eastham's contribution of $1.45 million from community preservation and other town funds. A panoply of government and private support came through the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and their private sector partners including J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America.
Speakers lauded the economic advantages of workforce and affordable housing.
“Jobs require people, people require housing,” said Eastham Affordable Housing Trust Chair Carolyn McPherson. She stressed that while 65 units of affordable housing is “wonderful,” it meets less than half of the town's need for its people who earn less than 80 percent of the average median income.
Orleans Selectmen Chairman Alan McClennen, chair of his town's community preservation committee, summoned the common history of the three neighboring towns (and beyond) in celebrating “the first new regional housing complex on the Lower Cape.”
It was sometimes hard to hear speakers in the tent as construction equipment rumbled by an area that will become a pocket park. Adams said a ribbon-cutting for the development is expected next year.
On Dec. 19, the Orleans selectmen plan to meet in executive session to discuss purchasing the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Operations Center. That facility's relocation to Route 132 in Barnstable has opened up possibilities for affordable housing. Laura Shufelt of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership planned to attend to discuss how her agency could assist the town.
At last week's selectmen's meeting, the need for workforce housing was underscored. Fire Chief Anthony Pike received permission to hire a replacement for a firefighter-paramedic who resigned after four years to move to New Hampshire with his family for better housing opportunities. Town Administrator John Kelly noted that firefighters are required to live within six miles of the station.
“Of your total staff, how many are Orleans residents?” Selectman Kevin Galligan asked. “There are only four of us left,” the chief replied.