Lotteries will award six Oak Bluffs affordable lots
For many longtime Oak Bluffs residents who have never been able to own a home in their own town, Aug. 22 will be a tense day. The Oak Bluffs Resident Homesite Committee has tentatively set that date to draw six names from an elaborate lottery system, determining who will be able to buy plots of land designated by the committee for an affordable housing program.
"This is a great program, and we hope it fares well through the selection process," committee member Harvey Beth said at an informational meeting Thursday night in the library meeting room.
Mr. Beth, along with the three other members of the committee, Jack Law, Brian Hughes, and committee president Jim Rankin, discussed the status of the affordable housing program, and then opened the floor to questions from the approximately 20 people present. Overwhelmingly, the concern among residents was whether they would qualify for the five-year minimum residency requirement.
Current town bylaws stipulate that in order to be eligible for an affordable housing program, you must be a resident of the town for at least five years, with one of those years being current.
"Our program is for people who don't own homes," said Mr. Rankin. Therefore it is understandable that people may have issues with the residency requirements due to frequent moves, he said. Mr. Rankin encouraged anyone who was doubtful about their residency status to apply, and they would be examined on a case-by-case basis later on.
The lottery process
Applications submitted by the July 14 deadline and approved by the committee will be entered into a multi-tiered lottery system. There are six lotteries residents can enter into, depending on residency and employment requirements.
The first two lotteries are strictly for candidates who have spent at least five years as a municipal employee in Oak Bluffs. This includes employment by the school committee, fire department, or other agency deemed appropriate by the committee. The third lottery is for individuals who have lived in Oak Bluffs for at least 20 years. The fourth, fifth and sixth lotteries are for residents with at least 15, 10 and 5 years residency, respectively.
Candidates can enter their name into all lotteries that apply to their status. Therefore, the deck is stacked so that longtime residents and town employees are more likely to be chosen. "We set up the lottery to help people who have lived here for 20 years without owning," Mr. Law said Thursday.
Applications must be submitted to the selectman's office by the deadline with a $1,000 certified check binder and all other required components, in order to be considered for the lottery. The application contains documents from the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, which is handling the income certification process. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, and through a notarized affidavit prove that they have never been homeowners.
Candidates must qualify in the low- to moderate-income bracket, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) standards for Dukes County. The candidate must have an income lower than 140 percent of the median income, which is $68,300 for a family of four. Thus a family of four must not exceed a $95,650 annual income; a single person must not exceed an annual income of $66,900.
The properties and deed
The parcels of land residents are so eagerly vying for are of varying sizes and spread throughout Oak Bluffs. Two plots are on Sunset Road, another two on California Avenue, one on Linton Avenue and the last on Marvin Avenue.
They range in size from just over 5,000 square feet up to 16,000 square feet. The lots will be sold for $25,000 each, and to encourage candidates to stay on the property without selling, they will be on an amortization schedule for ownership. The resident will not own any percentage of the property until five years after the deed is issued, and after 20 years they will be full owners.
Residents chosen in the lottery will have 30 days from the date of the drawing to close on the house with the bank. They will have another 30 days to submit plans for building to the committee, and once approved, construction can commence. Residents must begin building within one year after the deed is issued.
Mr. Rankin said an appraiser recently surveyed all six lots and reported that each one would be suitable for up to a three-bedroom house. All owners will be required to build on a poured foundation.
Upon signing into the ownership agreement, residents must abide by a protective deed covenant and deed rider.
The covenant states that the property can only be used to build one single-family residential dwelling, and that "the design and structure should be consistent with and reflect traditional New England structure." Small accessory structures such as sheds are permitted.
"We just want to make sure that it fits with the neighborhood," Mr. Beth said. "And that it's not an eyesore."
Among other things, the covenant specifies that only the owners, family members and non-paying guests be allowed to use the dwelling; it is not intended to be a rental property.
To ensure that the property and its structures do not fall into disrepair, the protective covenant states that the committee has "the right to enter upon the premises for the purpose of enforcing these covenants...with or without court approval."
The deed rider deals with the issue of resale, if the resident chooses to do so before the 20-year mark when they become full owners. Mr. Beth outlined a complicated equation, which the committee would use to figure out the actual value of the property, compared to the original sale value as a low-income asset.
Both the deed rider and covenant will remain in effect for 20 years from the issuance of the property deed.
The committee said applicants could prove their residency through apartment leases, a voter registration affidavit, census affidavit or any other official document such as tax returns or driver's license records.
Committee members voted Thursday to allow school records to be used to prove residency for applicants who are just over the minimum age requirement.
Once the candidates are picked, one random lot will be chosen for each lottery winner.
The Committee said applicants do not have a choice as to which plot they will be awarded.
Committee members also voted Thursday night to abandon the $150,000 maximum mortgage amount.
"Banks have a lot of choice in deciding what people can afford and what they can't," said Mr. Hughes. "I don't think we should get into that on this committee."