ORLEANS – Lower Cape Summit on Affordable Housing drew about twice as many participants as expected and organizer Jay Coburn, executive director of the Community Development Partnership said that was a good sign.
More than 70 representatives from the towns of Harwich, Chatham, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown gathered in the Nauset Regional Middle School auditorium in Orleans to talk about how towns can join forces to tackle the issue of lack of housing for the workforce of year-rounders in the Lower and Outer Cape towns.
“I think this was a great first start. It was wonderful to see so many key important people who have been working on this problem for a long time. Coming together, reaching across town lines, looking for exciting and innovative solutions. And wonderful to have our legislators here listening to think how they can help,” Coburn said.
Among those in attendance, Coburn said a range of officials were represented.
“A great diversity of everyone from members of the board of selectmen to different housing organizations to planning board members. It was just a great group of people, of all the people who have an interest in creating more affordable housing in the Lower Cape,” he said.
The key, Coburn said, is for towns to combine resources and create a regional solution.
“Like a lot of other challenges we face in our community with protecting the environment and education and the cost of municipal services, we really need find ways to work together and reach across town lines,” he said.
Coburn said, “We want to build affordable housing in village centers and close to public transportation and there are some communities that are better at that than others. There are a lot of reasons to partner and get together.”
He said he believes partnerships will emerge in the near future, particular since attendees were in favor of meeting on a regular basis.
A state program called the Rural Initiative is one tool the towns can use for grant money and innovative solutions, Coburn said, including changing state policy on affordable housing and targeting more resources toward affordable housing.
The Rural Initiative has resources from Mass Housing Partnership and other entities like Coburn’s Community Development Partnership lending resources and staff to the effort.
Representatives from Mass Housing Partnership presented demographic data highlighting the challenges to the region.
“Some of the data we looked at today really underscored how our housing prices in our region have nothing to do with the incomes. That they’re driven by our wonderful seasonal homeowners and vacationers, but it’s created a real estate market, both rental and purchase that Cape Codders who want to make a life for themselves here, either young families, professionals or seniors are really struggling to do that,” he said.
As to what the need is on the Lower Cape, Coburn said, it changes depending on the community. “On the Outer Cape, we have real serious problems with police officers and school teachers who can’t find a place to live in our community and then we also have people who are living in poverty, so it really is a complex set of needs. I think that’s the reason to bring lots of people together because we’ve all got different ideas and different solutions to that problem.”