Tribe Gets $12 Million For Affordable Housing Project
By SAM HOUGHTON
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe received a substantial financial boost this week for an affordable housing development off Meetinghouse Road.
On Wednesday, the governor’s office announced a $1 million grant and the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development also awarded state and federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits that will create nearly $11 million in equity in support of the project, called Mashpee Wampanoag Village.
The funding is intended for use in constructing 42 rental units, including 13 units reserved for very low-income members of the tribe.
Tribal officials have aimed for the spring of 2018 to break ground.
“This is a welcome and happy opportunity to build much-needed housing for our people in the heart of our ancestral homelands,” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council chairman Cedric Cromwell said. “I could not have asked for a more joyous Christmas gift.”
Mr. Cromwell also thanked Mashpee Wampanoag Housing Department director Michelle Tobey and the Mashpee Wampanoag Housing Commission.
“Now we can deliver on one of our primary goals: providing affordable housing for our tribal citizens,” Mr. Cromwell said.
Ms. Tobey, who has worked on retaining the funds over the last year, said the project will include eight duplexes for tribal elders. The duplex approach would provide space for relatives to assist elders living in place.
The remaining 26 units will be constructed as two- and three-bedroom ranch houses, all deemed affordable. The project will also include office space and, potentially, a community center.
The housing director said that the funding will help realize the vision of the late Alice Lopez, the tribe’s first housing director. Ms. Lopez, who died in 2011, long advocated for tribal housing and was instrumental bringing the project into being.
A road at the 57-acre tribal-owned piece of land has already been created, as well as a wastewater treatment facility that is visible from Meetinghouse Road. The tribe received grants from a federal stimulus bill under President Barack H. Obama for the treatment facility, and funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the road. The Mashpee Planning Board in 2015 approved a request from tribal representatives to name the roads in the development after Ms. Lopez.
The major infrastructure parts already in place likely made the tribe’s bid for the request a good candidate, Ms. Tobey said. “We have been working diligently; that’s what made this application so attractive,” Ms. Tobey said. She said that the tribe would not have to pay back the federal and state funding sources.
“This is not anything that has to be paid back. This is not a loan,” Ms. Tobey said.
In a press release, Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. said the grant aims to make an impact on the Wampanoag community.
“We recently introduced the Housing Choice Initiative to help more communities committed to increasing affordable, quality housing options, like the Mashpee Wampanoag,” Gov. Baker said. “We look forward to the 42 new housing units this project will produce and continuing our work to support impactful housing projects that benefit families, seniors, individuals with disabilities and our growing workforce.”
Chrystal Kornegay, undersecretary of Massachusetts Housing and Community Development, was also quoted in the press release saying it was the first time the department partnered with the tribe. “We are pleased to be supporting this important project,” she said. “I want to congratulate the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on their efforts to bring this development to fruition, including completing the construction of infrastructure critical to the project’s viability. We look forward to celebrating the future milestones of the Mashpee Wampanoag Village.”
State Senator Julian Cyr said that the project was a meaningful step to help the tribe supply housing.
“A lack of diverse price point housing is among the greatest challenges facing the Cape and islands. As the first Cape Codders, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe are vital members of our community,” Mr. Cyr said.
The housing development is on land owned by the tribe and was part the federal government’s reservation proclamation in 2015. A court battle has raised uncertainty on whether the land will remain in trust, which could complicate the construction of the development. If a judge rules against the land decision, the tribe would need to meet state and local regulations and would likely need a Chapter 40B exemption from the Mashpee Zoning Board of Appeals.
If the judge and US Department of the Interior rule in favor of the tribe, it would not have to receive approval.