Land swap for proposed veterans housing
Affordable housing was in the spotlight at the Oak Bluffs board meeting on Tuesday afternoon, with board members citing concerns about project sites and costs.
Affordable Housing Committee member Mark Leonard requested a change to a Veterans Supportive Housing project from his approved 4.6-acre city-owned lot at 519 County Road to 50 Bellevue Ave. ., citing issues with the title deed on County Road.
The project has been in the works for more than a year and was approved by voters at the town hall meeting in November.
The 3.4-acre Bellevue lot, currently owned by the defunct Oak Bluffs Resident Homesite Committee — the city’s first attempt at affordable housing, dating back to the 1980s — has clear title with no ownership restrictions, Leonard said. The new site “still meets the needs and mission of the veteran support program,” he said. Leonard said the Bellevue location will be “much less,” with 10 housing units instead of the 30 units originally proposed.
Gail Barmakian, vice chair of the board, said she had “a number of issues with [the change] … For me, the location is one of the most important things when we decide on this, ”she said, noting that the city had approved the project as presented at the time, at the location of County Road. “Anything changing is, to me, more important than just moving forward with something without any oversight or checkpoints. Location is pretty important. It’s not a decision at all to be made at the slight.”
Barmakian said she would like to know exactly what the 519 County Road title issues are and wondered if the select committee even had the authority to approve the location change.
City administrator Deborah Potter said the proposed new site had not been “declared surplus”, as the approved lot had been.
Leonard said the Bellevue lot doesn’t need to be declared surplus, since it’s already under title for the Residents’ Residence Committee, to which Potter replied, “any disposition of land should be ‘considered as such. “I think a step has been skipped in this process,” she said.
Board chairman Ryan Ruley said he was “skeptical” of the decision being made without voter input. In the end, council elected to table the agenda item and consult with city council on the legality of the transfer.
Meanwhile, in a joint meeting between the select council and the Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Committee, the two councils discussed a request for a $250,000 grant from the city’s housing trust in Island Housing Trust and Boston-based Affirmative Investments to cover soft costs related to affordable housing. housing project in the southern part. This project was made logistically possible by the recent “donut hole” land swap signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday. Leonard said the project received $200,000 from the Oak Bluffs Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for strictly fixed costs.
An additional $750,000 is needed for the project, said Leonard, which was included in the original proposal from IHT and Affirmative Investments.
“I didn’t know that a request for $750,000 from the city was part of [that] proposal,” Barmakian said. “I have big problems with this.” She added that if she had known, she would not have voted to approve it in January.
Leonard said the request was “specifically defined” in the construction proposal funding strategies, to which Barmakian replied, “I just don’t remember.”
Potter said she should go back to the RFP for the project because she also didn’t “remember” the request for additional funds. Potter said that if the funds were donated, it would reduce the city’s fund balance.
“Most of us are sitting here thinking, ‘What did that page say?'” board member Jason Balboni said of the approved project. However, he said he remembered seeing the request for $750,000.
Island Housing Trust CEO Philippe Jordi confirmed that the proposal indeed involved the request for $750,000 over its $1 million pre-development budget.
Additionally, Jordi told the boards that receiving funds from the city would be “significant in terms of raising a lot more money” – the state $18 million that will be needed to execute the project.
Barmakian asked if the city would be reimbursed the $750,000 if the project managed to receive the $18 million. Jordi explained that the funding “is not structured like a loan”; IHT will also not be reimbursed for its approximately $2 million contribution to the project and will assume responsibility for covering inflated project costs.
In total, “this is a $24 million project,” said Pete Bradford, a member of the affordable housing committee, acknowledging fears it would “strain” the city’s confidence. But, he pointed out, “it is a contribution of 750,000 dollars to build 45 apartments”.
Bradford suggested using short-term rental tax revenue to help ease the pressure. Noting the growing amount of collections on these rentals, he said the city should consider distributing it to affordable housing.
“I think that’s a good discussion for another day,” Ruley said, “but I don’t disagree with you.”
Some board members briefly considered offering less than requested, with Barmakian vehemently opposing any decision at the meeting.
The board decided to table the discussion and possibly vote on it at its August 23 meeting.