Rochester residents tackle affordable housing problem

May 6, 2019

ROCHESTER — Richard Cutler, Mark Wallington, and Gianno Lettieri appeared before the Board of Selectmen on May 6 to present on their fledgeling nonprofit group, Rochester Affordable Housing Inc.

The group is dedicated to affordable housing for seniors who might otherwise be pushed out of town if they fall on hard times. Though Cutler, Wallington, Lettieri and the other five volunteers with the group started it about three years ago, they only recently received 501c3 status.

The nonprofit’s next steps include fundraising and looking into land where they could build affordable homes for Rochester’s seniors.

Cutler said that he attended a roundtable discussion on affordable housing on the Cape and found organizations there to be “very aggressive in how they proceed with affordable housing.”

“We’re not asking the town for millions of dollars, but it would be nice if we had some surplus property that we could use,” Cutler continued.

Although the three presenters didn’t have any specific property in mind, they were looking to start a discussion.

Selectman Woody Hartley said that the town doesn’t have any buildings that it could donate to the cause.

That’s fine for Cutler, though. “We’re in for the long haul, not talking something instantaneous,” he said.

The other Selectman in attendance, Bradford Morse, said the board would have to go to Town Counsel about the issue. Another issue the Selectmen raised is that even if they were to donate land they cannot choose a specific recipient. It would have to go through an RFP. 

However the affordable housing hopefuls pointed out that conditions on an RFP could state that the land go to a 501c3 for the purpose of senior housing. If there are multiple nonprofits they would be happy to compete.

The group envisions a set of 1 bedroom units that would be 500 to 800 square feet in size.

The nonprofit is still working on the prices, but is hoping to rent for less than Rochester Crossing, a proposed housing development where a quarter of the units will be affordable, that will come before voters for approval at Town Meeting

“We don’t consider $1,350 to be the affordable for seniors who have typically had hard times come across them,” Cutler said. The group would love to charge something between $500 and $800 a month, though it is still working out the numbers to determine if that is reasonable.   

Hartley pointed out that $1,350 is the latest proposed cost for a two-bedroom unit, with a one-bedroom potentially renting for $1,150.

Rochester Affordable Housing also plans to take donations from individuals. The organization has already been promised one piece of property, but that is a long-term promise.

Wallington brought up the 5 vacant acres at Ryder Road and Nye Street as one possibility for a donation from the town. However, the nonprofit’s representatives also promised to do some research on other sites and revisit the issue with the Selectmen.

They also noted that not all donations have to be that large. “We certainly don’t need five acres,” Cutler said, adding that he has noticed people doing a lot of building of colonials on one acre lots.