Report: Affordable Housing At Bank Site Is Financially Feasible

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Housing and homelessness

The operations center of the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank off West Road. The town is exploring reuse of the building and site when the bank relocates its headquarters to Barnstable in the near future.  ED MARONEY PHOTO

ORLEANS Attention, developers: affordable housing units could be built at the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank operations center campus on West Road, according to a study presented last night (Aug. 28) to the board of selectmen.

Two concepts, one with 45 units and the other with 51, are in no sense a fixed plan to be carried out by builders. They express the elements that the town's affordable housing committee and affordable housing committee trust fund board believe should be considered by anyone developing the site.

The bank, which is moving its operations center to Hyannis, allowed the town to look into the location's potential for housing. A study by Brown Lindquist Fenuccio and Raber Architects, of Yarmouth Port, yielded data on existing conditions and offered potential site layouts for consideration by developers.

“These are not meant to be a plan,” architect Rick Fenuccio said Aug. 21 in presenting the latest concepts to the housing committee and trust fund board. “It's a summary of desired features.”

Laura Shufelt, assistant director of community assistance for the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, cautioned the two boards to remember they were looking at concepts, not a final design. “You want to make sure it's clear that's not what you expect it to look like,” she said. “It's the features you're looking at.”

Future paths are multiple. The bank could work directly with a developer on a housing effort or sell the property to a third party that would do so. The town could use community preservation and housing trust funds to acquire the property and put out requests for proposals for entities that would shoulder the cost of building the development.

The estimated cost of a 51-unit development is $17.1 million, including hard (construction) and soft (development) costs, exclusive of the cost of acquisition of the site. The town and the bank are planning to discuss options in the coming months.

“We're trying to make sure we're not etching this in stone,” Fenuccio said. “We're leaving you and the Cape Cod Five room to make choices.”

The 51-unit concept—a mix of 24 one-bedrooms, 14 two-bedrooms, three three-bedrooms, and eight micro units (studios)—was created to match the town's housing production goals. In July, Fenuccio said, he talked that concept over with Shufelt.

“She was very clear in her recommendation that we develop [a concept] that meets the [state's] Qualified Allocation Plan [QAP] under the state Department of Housing and Community Development,” Fenuccio said. That led to the 45-unit option, which includes 16 one-bedrooms, 24 two-bedrooms, five three-bedrooms, and no micro units.

“The QAP Complaint Concept is financially feasible, depending on the acquisition cost,” the report states.

QAP goals for 2019 state that “At least 65 percent of the units in a project must include two or more bedrooms, and at least 10 percent must be three-bedroom units.” Two other QAP priorities—investment in distressed and at-risk neighborhoods and preservation of existing affordable housing—aren't a match for the Orleans concept, but it could qualify by reserving at least 20 percent of units for “extremely low-income” (30 percent or less of area median income) individuals, family and seniors and by offering family or senior housing production in a community whose affordable housing stock is lower than 12 percent.

Aligning with the state's priorities increases a developer's ability to access federal low income housing tax credits, which Shufelt said are the primary funding source for affordable housing developments with more than 28 units.

Also last night, the trust fund board was to ask the selectmen to approve an application for a $1 million line of credit from The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod. According to a draft agreement, the line “would provide access to funds to act expeditiously should appropriate target property become available. The proceeds for any individual advance are intended to be short term in nature and repaid through the sale or refinance of each individual asset acquired within a 12-month period.”

The trustees are also seeking the selectmen's authorization to pay $235,000 for a condominium unit at 24 Old Colony Way to be resold as a deed-restricted affordable housing unit or rented.