The town is moving ahead with the development of as many as 50 affordable rental units spread across three mid-island properties.
The Affordable Housing Trust on Thursday approved three requests for proposals to develop the municipally-owned sites on Orange Street, Bartlett Road, and Amelia Drive. The RFPs will be issued to seek potential developers at each property
The three properties were acquired by the Trust with taxpayer dollars approved by Town Meeting voters, starting with the $20 million set aside in 2019 through the so-called “Neighborhood First” funding spearheaded by former Select Board members Rick Atherton and Tobias Glidden.
Two lots at 135 and 137 Orange Street were acquired by the Trust in 2020 for $3.5 million. Last April, the Trust and the Nantucket Land Bank joined forces to buy an adjacent vacant lot at 141 Orange Street for $1.7 million. Combined, the lots are nearly an acre of land, and would be the largest of the three potential developments. Affordable Housing Trust chair Brian Sullivan said the hope is to create 32 units, while staying within the existing zoning constraints.
The three-quarter-acre lot at 12 and 12R Bartlett Road was purchased by the Trust in February, 2022 for $2.75 million. Existing zoning would allow for the development of 12 units, Sullivan said, but in this case, the Trust would be open to a developer proposing a “friendly 40B” project to potentially increase the number of units to 14 or more.
The Trust’s property at 7 Amelia Drive would accommodate up to three affordable apartment units under the RFP that will be issued.
With 25 percent of the apartments at the three new sites dedicated to individuals earning up to 80 percent of the area median income, all of the units will be eligible to be included on the town’s “subsidized housing inventory,” or SHI list.
That list is used to measure a community’s stock of low- or moderate-income housing for the purposes of the state 40B law. Cities and towns with less than 10 percent of their housing stock meeting the SHI criteria are subject to 40B affordable housing developments that allow greater density than allowed by zoning if 20 to 25 percent of the units meet the state’s definition of affordable housing.
Towns that reach 10 percent of their housing stock meeting the SHI criteria or demonstrate meaningful progress toward it are granted “safe harbor” from 40B developments. Nantucket recently achieved safe harbor due to its progress toward the 10 percent goal. The island is climbing closer to the 10 percent goal, as DHCD verified that Nantucket’s current SHI stands at 6.78 percent.
“We’re making huge progress to the 10 percent,” Sullivan said. “We’re maintaining safe harbor from non-friendly 40Bs. That’s not the goal of affordable housing, but getting safe harbor gets us more local choice on these projects.”
While the most visible affordable housing project on the island has been the Wiggles Way development - which will be another affordable rental situation - Sullivan acknowledged that the public was eager to see progress on the Trust’s other properties, and that he hard heard some of the criticism about the pace of developing the recently-acquired lots.
But he emphasized that the Trust is moving as quickly as possible, and that previous affordable housing developments on Nantucket also had drawn-out processes before coming to fruition.
“The public meeting process is lengthy and complicated, it all has to happen at public meeting,” Sullivan said. “We got underway four years ago with funding, to acquire property and get RFPs out. If we compare Orange Street to Sachem’s Path, Sachem's Path took 12 years. So we’re only a couple years into this process, .which is exciting because the Trust has only been well funded for the past 4 years."