Orleans Considers Hiring Housing Coordinator

ORLEANS – The Town of Orleans is considering the possibility of hiring a new housing coordinator in the coming year.

As the affordable housing crisis continues to plague Barnstable County, the issue of finding a new coordinator has emerged as a top priority for the town.

The affordable housing committee and the affordable housing trust board met with selectmen recently to discuss a potential new part or full time hire.

At the meeting, the affordable housing trust presented the work it has gathered over the past year which focused heavily on the town’s housing needs survey.

Trust board member Ward Ghory said the survey called for 100 new affordable housing units over the next ten years, citing a Habitat for Humanity house which is expected to be occupied by the end of 2020, and a condo that will be rented at an affordable rate beginning in the spring.

Research by Assessor Brad Hinote was also presented to the board.

Hinote’s findings show that 279 of 5,739 parcels in Orleans are affordable to families earning the current median income for the county.

Of the 279 affordable parcels, 270 are condos. The trust board and board of selectmen agreed to purchase the condo Ghory cited as a pilot project to see if the market can be a viable option for affordable housing.

Ghory told selectmen the trust is currently working on a total of 56 units, which includes a building at 107 Main Street they are evaluating for conversion into nine housing units, and potentially converting the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank operations center on West Road to 45 housing units.

Additionally, the trust and committee have prepared operating guidelines for how properties are to be evaluated which focuses on making monthly status reports, promoting community collaboration, and looking for ways to increase the town’s capacity to fund major projects.

Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison responded to the trusts presentation and brought up concerns about the recent requests made by the trust for his board’s support for a line of credit and the condo purchase for rental.

“We are kind of looking at initially the possibility of the Town of Orleans actually having a staff person that is a housing coordinator,” said Mathison.

“We wanted to initiate those discussions so that we could insure the people in Orleans that we were working together to get the outcomes that we all desire and that’s the housing that we need to have.”        

Housing Assistance Corporation CEO Alisa Magnotta and Community Development Partnership CEO Jay Coburn were both invited to share their insights on the situation.

Magnotta said having a point person that could go between selectmen and town committees would be reasonable, noting that other towns have been successful employing the same position.

“Having that liaison to bring the project to fruition makes it much less resistant for an organization like mine to or another developer to come in and see a path forward,” said Magnotta.      

Coburn spoke openly about the progress towns on the Lower Cape have had with housing coordinators such as Provincetown, Chatham, and Harwich.

The housing committee and housing trust have relied on the expertise of Director of Planning and Community Development George Meservey throughout the process.

Mathison said a part-time housing staffer would ideally commission and evaluate feasibility studies, draft requests for proposals, identify funding sources, and draft contracts for unit management.

Selectman Kevin Galligan noted that the housing committee and housing trust were off to a good start but added that the town needs to define an implementation plan that results in a staff person’s responsibilities.

The next step in this process would involve discussions with Town Administrator John Kelly and Finance Director Cathy Doane regarding the budget for next year.

About Luke Leitner

Luke Leitner grew up in Watertown Massachusetts and now lives in West Yarmouth on the Cape. He has been a part of the news team in the CapeCod.com News Center since the spring of 2019. He studied business communications at Western New England University.

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