Despite what you may read about other states unable to launch an emergency rental assistance effort, Massachusetts was one of the first to do so and we are leading the country in getting financial assistance to people impacted by Covid. As the regional agency responsible for distributing the state’s rental assistance funds, I’m proud of my colleagues who have worked tirelessly over the past year to consistently ensure our processing time for applications at Housing Assistance is under three weeks. In fact, we’ve distributed more than $4.3 million since the pandemic began.

Although the Supreme Court has ended the eviction moratorium, people in our region who are eligible for financial assistance can receive rent money quickly after completing the application by clicking the button below.

This is great news for anyone with secure housing. But for anyone who loses their year-round rental, there is simply no place for them to go.

There is less than a 1% rental vacancy rate in every town on the Cape, and rental applications often close the same day they are posted due to the volume of inquiries. Our booming real estate market has made purchasing a home close to impossible for the average worker in our region. Median home prices are around $630,000, which means a person or a household would have to make nearly $160,000 in order to qualify for a home loan. It speaks to a larger problem on Cape Cod – the lack of affordable and attainable housing for our region’s workforce, families, young professionals, and seniors living on a fixed income. This lack of the right kind of housing drives up prices and drives out locals.

HACbeat editorial graphic

Right now, our homeless outreach and front desk staff are fielding calls from fully-employed individuals and families with no housing. Their rental sold, and they are looking for another, with none to be found. These families will have to choose whether to stay or move off Cape.

They will have to choose whether to stay with their current employer or look for a new job. Their choices have serious and lasting effects on our schools, businesses, and the culture of our region. The question is, what kind of community do we want to be? A Cape Cod that is only accessible to the wealthy – or a place where schoolteachers and healthcare workers can afford to buy a house?

It’s up to us.

Our year-round housing inventory is eroding faster than we can build it and with that goes the communities we love.

I still believe we can change the course of events with intentional and swift housing policies coupled with a robust and vocal advocacy. The fact is we have a plethora of single-family homes in our region. We need smaller one- and two-bedroom units – apartments, accessory dwelling units, cottage communities, and duplexes are great examples. The first step is to update zoning to allow multi-family properties in the appropriate locations. Right now, our zoning incentivizes single-family homes – we have to change this foundational aspect of our town policies in order to achieve the right-sized residences that we desperately need.

Change is possible with advocacy – and advocacy stems from awareness. Our future depends on all of us taking the time to understand what’s at stake and standing up for housing. We can’t afford to delay building housing with endless studies, or the idea that housing is a good idea—just someplace else. Instead of delaying each proposed development with more studies and other delay tactics, let’s work together and dive into the conversation about how we can make housing work.