By Alisa Magnotta

Cape Cod is losing nearly 1,000 households a year. Many of these households are making $100,000. That bleak figure is expected to rise to 1,500 households annually over the next two years.

This data is from a newly released report on Cape Cod’s economy and the housing market. On November 3, Housing Assistance and our partners, four well-respected regional business organizations — Cape & Islands Association of REALTORS®, Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, CapeBuilt Companies, and the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Cape Cod — introduced that important report and launched an urgent advocacy initiative called Housing to Protect Cape Cod at a summit gathering in Hyannis.

The report, which can be found on our website, made it crystal clear that our “housing” crisis is not just a housing crisis. It is a full-blown economic crisis. And the two together have turned into a community crisis. Cape Cod is a market incapable of serving its year-round residents.

It has repercussions for seasonal residents and visitors as well. The charming independently owned inns, shops and restaurants that attract residents and visitors alike to our towns have fewer and fewer available workers. Which leads to another stark figure from the report: nearly 50% of the folks still working in these businesses are now driving over the bridges to get here. This is not sustainable environmentally or economically.

Housing Assistance commissioned this report because over the past few years we’ve noticed an influx of nontraditional clients unable to find housing in any town in our region. They’ve been educators and health care workers, retirees and retail workers — people with steady incomes. But they’re unable to find available or affordable units.

Our staff began to question whether these trends were situational or permanent. This report is born of that question and our desire to understand more deeply the relationship between community, economy and housing. We see these trends as they’re happening. We saw the foreclosure crisis as it was hitting. We saw early pandemic displacement. And we see this disturbing trend – human displacement – continue.

All the members of the HPCC team see it too. The direction we are going is not sustainable. We all recognize the need to bring people together and mobilize to create change in our towns. We need to change zoning laws to allow for multi-family development.

This is our time to be intentional, to make sure our rules, our zoning bylaws, are doing what we want. We’ve spent time and money protecting our environment. Now is the time to also protect our people, our communities. Just like we’ve added pockets of open space, we need to add pockets of multi-family housing where people earning $100,000 and less can live.

A healthy community needs all different types of people able to work in all different layers of our economy. Restricting development to one type of housing – single family on large lots – is making our community, our economy unhealthy. We need rentals for workforce. We need smaller homes affordable for first-time homebuyers, homes for families with school-age children.

The Housing to Protect Cape Cod team will be reaching out to local residents starting in January, convening groups to help us all engage in our towns. This year, 2023, is our year. This is our time to get educated, to get involved, to make sure we have vibrant communities.

Let’s make this happen together.