By George Brennan
SANDWICH — Just before the Christmas holiday, Housing Assistance Corp. got a present that's been on the wish list for more than a decade.
Last week, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston announced that the agency's Community Green project in Sandwich had been awarded $436,306 to build the first phase of its mixed-use affordable housing development once known as Dana's Fields.
"We're really excited because it gives us the leverage to work with the state to get the remaining money that we need," said Gisele Gauthier, director of housing development for the Hyannis-based nonprofit.
Housing Assistance needs about $1 million more to begin construction, which is scheduled for this summer, Gauthier said. "The state is committed to projects like this," she said.
There were 58 applicants for the Federal Home Loan Bank grants, and the Sandwich project was among 10 throughout New England that received funding, said Kenneth Willis, the bank's vice president and director. The bank uses 10 percent of its net earnings from the previous year to fund affordable housing initiatives, he said.
Housing Assistance Corp. applied for the money in partnership with Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank and met the criteria for the grant, Willis said.
"It was focusing on homeless individuals, and that set it apart for us as a project," Willis said about Community Green. Along with housing, Community Green will also provide jobs on an organic farm to give individuals life skills for a fresh start, something Willis said was a "really cool" part of the application.
Community Green, located on 46 acres near the Sandwich Industrial Park, has been down a long, challenging road. It went through a protracted permit and legal process that started while Bill Clinton was still president.
Early next month, a young couple will move into the Curio House, an energy-efficient one-bedroom house on the site, to act as caretakers for the property.
But it's the grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank that provides funding for 10 single-occupancy apartments to be constructed at the site that really meets the project's long-term goals.
"These units are the ones being built with the intention of working with formerly homeless people looking to get back into mainstream life," Gauthier said. The 10 apartments will be located in a two-story building that will also include common space where residents can attend support group meetings and receive job training.
Homeless individuals from the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis who are ready to get back out on their own will be set up in the housing and given jobs working on the community garden or caring for the chickens that will be part of the Community Green farm, she said.
The idea is to bring them a "step closer to independent living," she said.
Construction could begin this summer. The first occupants could be moving in by 2013, Gauthier said.
The Sandwich project will eventually include more than 50 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments offered for rent and sale at affordable rates. A community center is also planned, along with four single-family homes accompanying the Curio House.
"Community Green really has been a long time coming," Gauthier said.
"This is a big step."