Advocating for the Cause —Esin Sozer

Esin Sozer and her husband managed to purchase a home, but the challenges of the experience spurred her to become an advocate for affordable housing.

Sozer, her husband Chris Grove and their son JT moved to Cape Cod in January 2021 and rented a condo. “We were paying $2,400 a month, which was a lot more than what we paid in Virginia, but it was within our budget,” said Sozer, who is a professor in the bioengineering department at Northeastern University. Her husband works remotely for the California Institute of Technology.

But that September, they got an email from their landlord’s lawyer informing them of plans to sell the Cotuit unit. “We told them we really like living here and we wanted to figure out if we could buy it,” said Sozer. “We knew he bought it for $370,000 at the beginning of 2020, but the market was going crazy. We thought a fair offer would be $500,000, but they said they wanted to put it on the market.”

Sozer and her husband started to look for other options. “We felt like, ‘Okay. We can afford $500,000. We should be able to find a house that we like.’ But months went by. Every weekend, we went to open houses and I was making phone calls, but we could not find a house to buy or rent. I started looking up to $3,000 a month, just looking for any option, although that would’ve been extremely tight for us.

Esin Sozer, with her husband Chris Grove and their son JT Sozer Grove Advocating for the Cause – Esin Sozer

“What was astonishing to me was there were no options for rental. We have good income and we’ve always been good renters. There’s no reason for any landlords who’s willing to rent not to want us as renters, but there were no options.”

One potential purchase deal fell through because of title problems. Meanwhile, their landlord’s realtor was showing their condo to potential buyers. “It was extremely stressful,” said Sozer.

Eventually, the owner couldn’t get the price he wanted and sold the unit to Sozer and her husband for $510,000.

“We got help from our parents for the down payment, which is not luxury everybody has,” she said. “I don’t know how people who have less income live here.

“It felt like we would have to squeeze into my in-laws’ place or move away from Cape Cod, although we really didn’t want to do that. I’m sure this is happening all the time to all kinds of different people.

“It’s a very scary feeling to not know where you will live in a month or two, especially when you have a toddler at home who’s 100% dependent on you for their safety. This was the hardest thing we experienced through the pandemic.”

That’s why Sozer, who plans to undertake advocacy training, sent a letter to the Cape Cod Commission in support of the 312-unit Twin Brooks housing development in Hyannis.

“I wrote that I didn’t want to raise my son in a place where his teachers and pediatric nurses cannot afford to live. I want to live in a middle-class environment where there’s a lot of cultural activity. I don’t think that’s possible if it’s only multimillion-dollar houses and no rental options. Right now, it seems impossible on Cape Cod be a community where young professionals can live.”

“At the Twin Brooks hearings, I heard people say, ‘Why 300 units? Let’s do 60 units. Let’s do 50 units.’ The reason is we actually need thousands of new units across Cape Cod. The people who call this place home are being pushed out every day.”

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