HYANNIS − Barnstable County should take a layered approach in using its remaining $11.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to move the needle on the region’s housing crisis, according to a committee tasked with determining the best way to use the money.
On Wednesday, Paul Niedzwiecki, chairman of the American Rescue Plan Act Advisory Committee, gave the Assembly of Delegates Standing Committee on Economic Affairs an update on how the group envisions using the money.
“These are general recommendations we’re making and some of the specifics will be included in the RFP (request for proposals) that has yet to be drafted,” said Niedzwiecki, who also serves as CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
Affordable homes, homeless initiatives and workforce housing
The lion’s share − $6.9 million − would go towards affordable housing.
The prime concerns include prioritizing gap funding for projects already underway; funding projects for those earning up to 80% of area median income and supporting multi-family housing projects; and supporting projects with a mix of different sized apartments in desirable areas with amenities nearby, among other considerations.
Then, $3 million is proposed for homelessness initiatives. Money would provide shelter and supportive services to help the homeless on Cape Cod or establish medical respite services through acute and post-acute medical care for people too ill to recover from an illness on the street but not sick enough to be in a hospital.
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Funding could also go towards recommending a relocation of an existing shelter with reasons for doing so, if the funding is requested for this purpose.
Lastly, $1.5 million would go towards workforce housing to support projects promoting redeveloping and modernizing housing structures, creating accessory dwelling units, and projects promoting zoning changes to allow for multi-family and higher density in appropriate areas.
Prioritizing housing initiatives
If he had to prioritize when the funding should go out, Niedzwiecki said he would use first the $6.9 million for affordable housing, saying some projects may fail without some gap funding, and the $3 million for homelessness, saying the “opportunity for that is at its highest in the current economic situation.”
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The workforce housing piece could potentially wait, he said. The Cape Cod Commission is building a regional housing plan that will include a decision support tool aimed at making it easier to have conversations about impact of zoning, he said, and it may be best to wait until that’s available before spending money.
What may not get this round of funding
The committee has recommended no funding for transitional housing creation, and housing stabilization/case management in this round because there is already an adequate number of projects totaling over $1.5 million in the small and medium grant cycle — still in the competitive process and not finalized — to address these issues.
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The Standing Committee voted unanimously to make the release for the $1.5 million for workforce housing contingent on the completion of the Cape Cod Commission’s Regional Housing Study and to favorably forward the recommendations to the Finance Committee.
That committee will take up the item, before then forwarding it to the full assembly.
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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Affordable apartments on Cape? ARPA pitched as housing, homeless fix