Mashpee will go with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a national company, to turn a town-owned parcel at 950 Falmouth Road into much-needed housing.
Facing the Mashpee Affordable Housing Trust Monday night, May 20, was the choice between POAH and Commonwealth Community Builders. The two companies were the only contractors to respond to a request for proposals to develop the approximately three-acre, town-owned parcel.
POAH proposes building a total of 69 bedrooms. Ten percent of the apartments at the site will be considered affordable for “very-low income” or affordable to a family making about $24,000; the remainder will be considered affordable for those who make 80 percent of the area median income.
The company proposes building 13 one-bedroom apartments; 22 two-bedroom units; and four apartments with three bedrooms, for a total of 69 bedrooms.
The project would be a boon for Mashpee’s housing stock as the town looks to meet its 10 percent affordable housing goal.
The proposed design, which will likely change following Monday’s decision, includes three separate buildings full of apartments. One would be a shingled-Cape “workshop,” the second a barn style, and the third like a “New England farmhouse,” the company’s proposal reads.
Members of the housing trust—made up of mostly selectmen and housing advocates—decided that POAH had more experience with similar-sized projects, and demonstrated it could acquire enough finances to bring the housing to fruition, compared to Community Builders.
While the vote was unanimous Monday, it took convincing some members to vote for it. Three selectmen—John J. Cotton, John J. Cahalane and Thomas F. O’Hara—had qualms with the barn and “dorm-room” design of POAH’s proposal.
Mr. Cotton, who said that the POAH design looked like dorm buildings compared to a Cape Cod home, said he would not be happy if that was the final design of the project.
Mr. Cahalane said he was surprised that neither company made a presentation to the trust before trust members were asked to select a contractor.
But Allan Isbitz, trust member and chairman of the Mashpee Affordable Housing Committee, said that POAH had solid references, had demonstrated it had built similar sized-homes even within the area, and that the facade of the development was negotiable. The trust could work with the company on a design after granting the bid.
Town Planner Evan R. Lehrer, who reviewed the proposals, said that Community Builders could not prove it could raise the necessary funds for the project, and while both companies scored high in their scoring system, Preservation had a much higher score.
The trust decided to condition its approval on having a final say on the design of the project.
The trust also conditioned its approval on reducing the nitrogen load from the project. The board has had concerns about adding nitrogen to the water table as the town looks to start its wastewater plan.
Preservation is partnering with the Housing Assistance Corporation for the project, a nonprofit agency that has helped bring housing solutions to the Cape for some 40 years.
In its proposal, Preservation said it has developed some 10,000 affordable housing units in more than 100 sites in 11 states across the country, in an effort to help “working poor, families, veterans, disabled citizens and seniors.”
Locally, it has built a 40-unit development in West Barnstable in 2009, of which 100 percent of the units qualified as affordable; a three-phased development in Bourne known as the Canal Bluffs that offers more than 100 units, more than 90 percent of which are affordable; and a 27-townhouse development in Dennis completed in 2016, where 100 percent of the units qualified as affordable.
Last year a Sandwich consulting firm, Horsley Witten, concluded that the Falmouth road site was viable for an affordable housing project and could accommodate as many as 69 bedrooms.
Prior to Monday’s decision, an RFP working group met over multiple meetings to review the two proposals. The group included affordable housing committee chairman Allan Isbitz, vice chairman Walter (Bud) Abbott, town planner Evan R. Lehrer, assistant town manager Wayne Taylor, Laura Shufelt, from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, and selectmen chairman Carol A. Sherman.
The developers estimated total development cost came to $14 million, or about $364,000 per apartment. POAH expects that it could receive a number of state, federal and local grants. Preservation of Affordable Housing and HAC will be responsible for planning, permitting, financing, construction oversight, property management and long-term asset management of the new development. POAH plans on renting the properties.