Economist Says More Affordable Housing Needed on Cape Cod

“The Bowtie Economist” Elliot Eisenberg is the guest speaker at the Cape Housing & Economic Forecast event Tuesday in Hyannis.

HYANNIS – A nationally acclaimed economist is encouraging local officials to promote and build more affordable housing on Cape Cod.

Elliot Eisenberg, also known as “The Bowtie Economist,” was the guest speaker at the Cape Housing & Economic Forecast event held Monday in Hyannis.

It was hosted by the Homebuilders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod, Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, and Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

Eisenberg said upwards of 1,200 people are leaving the Cape every year.

“This is not a great thing. It means affordable housing is completely unavailable and people are having a harder and harder time at the lower end,” Eisenberg said.

“The bartenders, barbers and house cleaning people are the ones who are really struggling.”

Eisenberg said the entire northeastern part of the country is struggling to hold its own when it comes to population – and that it’s even worse on Cape Cod.

“The combination of bad weather, high taxes and high home prices is hurting you compared to the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida where everything is opposite – the weather is better, the housing prices are cheaper and taxes are lower,” Eisenberg said.

“Americans are moving and they are generally moving south and west where you are getting most of those things in general.”

Eisenberg said the main solution for Cape Cod is to build more homes.

“There is really nothing else you can do,” he said. “There are lots of little things you can do, but absolutely more homes at the lower level [are needed.]”

Eisenberg said the homes and rental units can be high density and don’t have to be physically beautiful.

“In London and New York, people buy 300-square-foot condominiums and pay a fortune for them because that is what they can afford and they want to live in that community,” he said.

“That’s okay and that could be a partial solution to the problem here.”

Experts said Cape Cod’s status as a summer tourist destination makes it harder to accomplish affordable housing goals.

“These are places people want to go visit, or rich people want to own a place there because it is a sign they have arrived,” Eisenberg said.

“Once you get that kind of association it is a treadmill to very expensive prices and difficult affordability for low-income people.”

Eisenberg said that in tourist destinations like Vail and Aspen, Colorado workers are bused in from up to 50 to 60 miles away because it is the only way they can get workforce.

He said another solution for the region would be to get new bridges and more transportation options between Cape Cod and areas like Plymouth and Quincy.

“Poor transportation and high house prices is a tough combination,” Eisenberg said.

He said all types of housing are needed to have a successful community.

“Even one person over their life can go through multiple types of housing,” he said.

“When you are 18, the housing you want is different than when you are 30 when you are married with kids, or 50 when you are married and [empty nesters], or 80 when your spouse is dead and you need something else.”

Eisenberg said the message is to build more homes, get rent and home appreciation prices a little under control and make some more available at the lower end of the market.

Eisenberg said if things don’t change the population trends will continue and it will be more expensive to live here.

“Population eventually stops falling at some point this doesn’t go on forever obviously,” he said.

“There will be a lot of service industries that cater to very rich people that are here because that will be the primary population and there will be more and more of them over time.”

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.
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