Chatham town meeting to tackle affordable housing, senior center and wastewater – Cape Cod Times

CHATHAM — In its preamble to the town meeting warrant, the Finance Committee praised town officials for tackling projects this year to help what it called “the quiet parts of town.”

These are chronic problems that have consistently taken a back seat to major municipal projects like wastewater and shoreside infrastructure. 

Saturday’s town meeting, at noon at Veterans Field, will address Issues including affordable housing, childcare, the need for a new senior center, have a quiet constituency even as the problems persisted and the need deepened.

Several affordable housing articles

Fueled in part by urban dwellers seeking refuge on Cape from the COVID-19 pandemic, home prices on Cape Cod, and particularly in Chatham, saw dramatic increases in the first four months of this year. Chatham led the way with a 74.5% increase in the median sales price for a single family home, up from $735,500 in 2020 to nearly $1.3 million in 2021.

Affordable housing advocates like Housing Assistance Corporation CEO Alisa Magnotta urged Cape towns to pass all the housing articles that came before them at town meetings this spring. Chatham has six articles dealing with affordable housing leading off the warrant’s 64 articles. Another five articles seek affordable housing money through the Community Preservation Act.

Two articles ask for funding to buy land for affordable and workforce housing. Article 17 requests authorization to purchase four lots totaling nearly 2½ acres located at 2337 Main St. The article asks for $487,050 from free cash toward a total purchase price of $974,100 with the remainder coming from Chatham’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The free cash balance is $1.23 million and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund stands at $1.22 million. Exactly what type of housing and how much will be built will be determined later.

The second land purchase article is for two parcels of land totaling approximately three acres at 1533 Main St. for $1.38 million with the funding evenly divided between Free Cash and the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund. 

The Select Board proposed an article to declare 19 acres of land off Middle Road as surplus and to transfer control to the board for use in developing affordable housing. The land was once under consideration as a site for the new senior center but that proposal did not get enough votes at the 2019 town meeting. The property has been under consideration for housing since 2007.

Real Property Transfer Fee

The Select Board decided that, with housing prices at levels where it’s hard to buy a home even for those making above median incomes, they wanted to create assistance to subsidize those making above 100% median income ($96,600 for a family of four) up to for those making 200% of median income ($193,200 for family of four). A proposed Real Property Transfer Fee, paid by the buyer, of ½% on the sale price of properties sold for over $2 million would provide the funding.

The article asks for support of a home rule petition to the state Legislature to create the fund. A separate home petition would allow Community Preservation Act money to be used for both affordable housing and what the town is calling attainable housing with the qualifying amount raised from 80% of median area income to 200%.

In a somewhat related article, the Select Board asked voters to approve $75,000 to fund a childcare voucher program that they say helped 33 children in 21 families with what is one of the biggest expenses for many working families.

Community Preservation Act requests include funding for an affordable housing coordinator, an affordable housing feasibility study, $1 million transferred into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and $90,000 for Habitat for Humanity to build two homes on George Ryder Road South.

Senior center proposal returns

The decision on where to locate a proposed new senior center was postponed last spring as the Select Board decided to eliminate all but essential articles from that warrant due to COVID-19. But opposing articles are on this year’s warrant with the town asking for approval of nearly $8.4 million for design and construction of the senior center at 1610 Main St. A petitioned article also requests design and construction money to build the facility on town-owned property on Stepping Stones Road. The petitioned article did not list an amount requested.

The town operating budget, including school assessments, is up 1.47% over last year, but the total town budget is up by over 42% with nearly $20 million in capital expenses in expansion of the town’s sewer system, stormwater remediation and the new senior center. These projects involve long-term bonding that would be paid out over 20 years. The Finance Committee estimated the tax rate for fiscal year 2022 will be $5.03 per $1,000 in valuation. That’s a less than a 1% increase over the current fiscal year.

With major municipal projects like a town-wide sewer system and a new regional high school, the town’s tax rate has increased by 25% over the past seven years, according to the Finance Committee.

There will be three Proposition 2½ debt exclusion questions on the June 17 town election ballot to pay for the senior center, various wastewater projects and stormwater projects. 

Chatham’s Annual Town Meeting

When: noon Saturday

Where: Veterans Field, 1 Veterans Field Road, Chatham

Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter:@dougfrasercct