Some 30 business, government, and nonprofit leaders from around the Cape and Islands gathered in January to discuss regional solutions to the ongoing housing crisis.

The sessions were convened as one of the next steps for the Housing to Protect Cape Cod Coalition (HPCC) and were facilitated by staff from the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) with funding secured by Cape and Islands State Senator Julian Cyr.

“The housing crisis has reached a fever pitch on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket,” Cyr said in his opening remarks. “Families now need an annual household income of $210,000 to afford the median priced single-family home on Cape Cod, and nearly half of our workforce commutes over the bridge to work here every day. These trends will only worsen without bold and immediate action by every town in the region. The solution is going to take the people who are engaged and who care about this place to make change at the local level, and it’s our job to organize and spur them to action.”

The sessions included a preview of the Cape Cod Commission’s draft regional housing strategy. Commission Executive Director Kristy Senatori said there are fewer homes for sale, and the average selling price is $600,000, far above what the average Cape resident, who makes about $80,000 annually, can afford. Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta said the Commission’s work, along with a report released last November by the independent research firm, The Concord Group, provides the data to back up what local service providers have been seeing for a long time.

“Our clients are fully employed, middle-income people who, if their rental is sold, have no place else to go,” she said. “We have to have a sense of urgency about this and build a regional plan from the inside out.”

Participants then explored what Magnotta described as the three biggest obstacles to solving the housing crisis: funding, zoning and opposition.

They also talked about the complexity of the housing crisis and the cost to solve it require housing advocates to be unified in their approach to presenting solutions, finding ways to fund them, and dealing with opponents.

“Opposition runs deeper than we’d like to think,” said Bert Talerman, co-president of Cape Cod 5. “A lot of people like housing in theory, but not when it’s next to them.”

James Seymour, executive director of the Cape and Islands Veterans Outreach Center, said while a lot of work still needs to be done, the regional strategy sessions were a step in the right direction.

“We’re finally putting the right people in the room,” he said.

Participants will meet again in February to discuss a list of regional tactics gathered from the sessions to build an action list to address the housing crisis.



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