Vietnam veteran Daniel Paulsen in front of one of the apartment units at Melpet Farm.

The real impact of developing affordable housing on Cape Cod can be witnessed in the people that it helps. They are not unlike Vietnam veteran Daniel Paulsen who will soon move into one of 27 new affordable apartments at The Residences at Melpet Farm which HAC is building on Route 134 in Dennis with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH).

While Paulsen, a native of Connecticut who moved here 11 years ago, always dreamed of living on Cape Cod, he acknowledged the region’s housing challenges are great. “You can’t find anything,” he said, particularly for someone like him who lives on a fixed income.

Paulsen’s arrival to the Cape was initially filled with promise. He started a painting business that was steadily growing until America’s financial crisis hit home in 2008. “I lost everything and moved back to Connecticut,” he said.

Still there was something pulling him back to this part of New England – his friends affectionately refer to him as “Cape Cod Dan” – so he decided to return. 

He admitted it has not been easy, but his fortune changed earlier this year when he filled out an application for an apartment at Melpet Farm. The development is intended for those earning 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) in Barnstable County or $36,780 for one person; $42,000 for two people; and $47,280 for three people.

Though he submitted an application, he said, “I didn’t think I even had a chance” which is why he never attended the housing lottery in July when Paulsen’s name was the first to be pulled. Paulsen said he was shocked when he first heard the news. Since then his excitement has only grown. “Seeing it in person is really amazing,” he said. “These are just gorgeous. It is unbelievable.”

At a ribbon cutting ceremony last month celebrating the near-completion of Melpet Farm, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said the satisfaction he derives from these types of projects is that they ultimately help those like Paulsen. “What I get thrilled at is the principle of getting people a decent place to live,” he said.

Consisting of eight residential buildings along with a community building, The Residences at Melpet Farm are designed to use half as much energy as a typical development. Solar panels will soon be placed on Melpet Farm, making it a net zero project “which means the project will produce nearly as much energy as it uses so that is quite a feat for an affordable housing development,” said Aaron Gornstein, president of POAH.

“But the real point of all of this is of course the residents who are going to be living here and the affordable housing that’s being provided,” added Gornstein, as he introduced Paulsen to the audience. “We can’t wait for you to move in.” “I can’t wait,” Paulsen replied.

Congressman William Keating said Cape Cod needs developments like this for its economy to thrive and to support its year-round workforce.

As he toured one of the completed units, Dennis Planning Board Chair Bob Mezzadri spoke about the importance of Melpet Farm to his community. “You can’t put a price tag on this,” he said. “There is a real need for affordable housing in all communities in Massachusetts, but it’s especially important to the Cape and the town of Dennis.”

Affordable housing projects like this, he said, can be used to keep the region’s workforce and younger population from moving off-Cape. “We have to do more of these,” he said.