Barnstable County Officials Stress Issue of Housing and Water Quality

Barnstable County Commissioners Mark Forest, Ronald Bergstrom and Sheila Lyons.

HYANNIS – Work continues by Barnstable County officials on how best to utilize the American Rescue Plan Act funding received by the region, but experts say the biggest challenge remains clear: housing and water quality. 

Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO and lead for the county’s ARPA committee Paul Niedzwiecki said part of the issue stems from the Cape’s huge proportion of single-family homes compared to other housing.

“Many of which are seasonal in nature. Some of those seasonal homes are used as year-round rentals. Given the increased value of property, a lot of those properties have been sold and the people that rented those properties year-round have been displaced really with no place to go,” said Niedzwiecki. 

He also added that the two issues are tied, as single-family homes are the largest source of water pollution for the region.

Niedzwiecki said that between $200 million proposed by Gov. Charlie Baker being discussed at the state level, ARPA funding, and other money sources, the county can and needs to take action on the issue.

Though housing was an issue for the region before the coronavirus pandemic, County Commissioner Mark Forest said utilizing ARPA funds to help address it can be easily justified given how tied housing is to the Cape economy and workforce. 

“We’re sort of at the tipping point where our failure to do more and take more action could begin to have some really devastating consequences for us. I think it’s smart to focus on some of these to identify the areas where we can link housing,” said Forest. 

The ARPA committee for the county said that the Cape has lost over half of its J-1 student visas as businesses could not meet the recently-implemented housing requirement, and urged action soon regardless of what funding source is utilized.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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