Housing Assistance Corporation’s Sachem's Path home ownership project is on its way to bringing much needed affordable housing to the island of Nantucket.
The project to construct 40 affordable single family homes in the island’s Surfside area is using local contractors who can sign up now if they are interested in working on the project.
Sachem's Path plans are in a conceptual stage and the project is currently awaiting state approval to move forward.
The scarcity of affordable housing on the island is well-known to locals who have seen the median home prices on the island soar over $1.5 million. Local newspapers have reported that the problem has worsened as more people have bought up houses that were formerly used as rentals to be used instead as seasonal homes.
The island’s 2002 Housing Action Plan survey stated that the housing crisis on the island is the primary source of most of Nantucket’s economic, social and, even, environmental problems.
The Sachem's Path project can be seen as a step toward helping those who live year-round on Nantucket secure stable housing. “It’s a commitment to making a big dent in providing affordable home ownership on Nantucket,” Adrienne Danner, of HAC's housing development division, said.
The project, she said, is also “an opportunity to employ the trades on Nantucket.” She added, “The houses will be super energy-efficient in a well-planned neighborhood development.”
Qualified buyers must have household incomes at less than 150% of the median income of Nantucket county. Of the 40 units, 25% will be priced for people who earn 60 to 80% of the island's median income and the remainder, 75%, will be priced for people who earn 81 to 150% of the median income.
The entire island of Nantucket is a historic district and so the development had to receive approval from the Nantucket Historic District Commission, in addition to the Nantucket Zoning Board of Appeals. Commissioners on the historic board were enthusiastic about the scale of the houses because they are not the typical "huge enormous mansions" that usually go before the board, Ms. Danner said.
These are modest homes with about 1,300 square feet of living space, she said.
She said the commission also liked the use of Nantucket vernacular elements. "They were really pleased with the attention to historic detail in porches, trim, rooflines and window styles." Also commissioners liked the diversity of the architecture--six or seven house models--within the Nantucket style.
The architecture team at Coldham & Hartman Architects from Amherst, which specializes in energy efficient homes, designed the original plans working with Brown, Lindquist, Fenuccio and Raber of Yarmouth, which has expertise in designing homes that meet the needs of historic commissions.
Sachem's Path will consist of one-, two- and three-bedroom homes, located on nine acres off Surfside Road between Miacomet and South Shore roads.
All the units will be affordable and four will be built and sold by Habitat for Humanity Nantucket.
Housing Assistance Corporation was awarded the contract to develop the project by the Nantucket Housing Authority, which owns the land. The housing authority put out a request for proposals for a developer for Sachem's Path in 2010 and selected HAC, noting its extensive experience developing 400 units of housing on the Cape & Islands over more than three decades.
"It's been a really wonderful collaboration with the Nantucket Housing Authority, and Renee Ceely, the executive director, has been a pleasure to work with," Ms. Danner said.
Nantucket Town Meeting voters in 2011 approved the spending of Community Preservation Act funds towards Sachem's Path. The Nantucket Zoning Board of Appeals approved the Chapter 40B comprehensive permit for the project last fall.
Now, according to Ms. Danner, HAC is working with state housing officials who are reviewing the permit to get final approval.
Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank is the construction lender bank for the project and Ms. Danner said, "We're very excited to be working with Cape Cod Five." Two final funding sources are being sought, she said, and once those are secured, construction on the homes can begin.
Cheryl Kramer, HAC's Housing Consumer Education Center Manager, said 88 potential homebuyers are on the list so far for the homes. She periodically holds "Rebuilding Your Credit" classes on the island of Nantucket "to help these folks start planning for the buying process."
Although it is too early to fill out an application for the homes, Ms. Kramer said, it is not too early to express interest and prepare to be good candidates as homebuyers, whether at Sachem's Path or somewhere else.
"I work hard to help these people start budgeting, saving, getting their credit in good standing so that when the lottery does happpen, we will have good applications and people who will be eligible to buy one of the homes," Ms. Kramer said. "We do know that due to the price point of homes on Nantucket, that there are people waiting specifically for the Sachem's Path project."