Affordable housing in Oak Bluffs took a big step forward Tuesday after the town’s select board approved a request for proposals (RFP) for the Island’s first veterans housing project.
The project is set to consist of a total of 12 one-bedroom apartments among three buildings on a 3.4-acre lot located at 50 Bellevue Ave. in Oak Bluffs.
The development was initially planned for a 4.6-acre town-owned parcel on County Road, and had been approved at town meeting in 2021, but title issues prompted a change of location.
Voters approved the Bellevue Avenue location at last year’s special town meeting.
At their Tuesday meeting, the Oak Bluffs Select Board voted to award the project to Island Housing Trust and the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center, who will be reviewing bids for construction.
The board heard from Mark Leonard, chair of the town’s affordable housing committee and a military veteran, who shared the recommendation of the project’s evaluation team
to enter into a development agreement with the IHT and the outreach center.
The estimated cost of the project is $5.3 million, Leonard said. It will largely be state-funded.
In addition to the 12 units, the site will also include a walking path, athletic field, and resource center for the development’s residents.
Per the RFP, the buildings’ aesthetic is to match that of neighboring residences.
Depending on how the project’s plan for wastewater upgrades works out, the units will likely be tied into the town’s sewer.
Town administrator Deborah Potter, who’s also a military veteran, noted potential accessibility issues, per the project renderings, and suggested that developers take that into consideration for construction. Other than that, she said, “I like the design. I think it’s beautiful.”
The board ultimately approved the RFP in a unanimous vote, which included a request that developers look into enhancing ADA accessibility.
“We should be very proud to be hosting the first housing designated to veterans on the Island,” select board chair Emma Green-Beach said.
Martha’s Vineyard Commission housing planner Laura Silber called the veterans housing project approval “a really big thing for the community.”
Leonard emphasized that the veteran supportive housing project isn’t just for Oak Bluffs. “It really is an Islandwide project, because it will support veterans from all towns,” he said. “It’s not just for Oak Bluffs … It’s for everybody here on the Island.”
Meanwhile, the subsidized housing inventory for the town of Oak Bluffs is at 5.47 percent, Leonard said, adding that the housing committee has been working to increase that percentage. Per state guidelines, the goal is to get the inventory to 10 percent. With current projects underway, Leonard said the town could reach that point in less than two years.
Leonard shared that two tenants have moved into the recently renovated Noyes Building, located at 82 Pennacook Ave. The former storefront was home to a pharmacy before being converted into two housing units — a one-bedroom and a studio apartment.
The Southern Tier project, a nearly 50-unit affordable housing development set for 85 Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs, has just received its 40B comprehensive permit — a state permit used for the construction of low- and moderate-income housing — and developers are currently seeking funding.