Adrienne Jones of Brewster attended a recent Take Your Seat Workshop because she wants to help other Cape Codders find housing.
“I was lucky in that I had help from my mother to buy a house,” she said. “Without that, I wouldn’t be a homeowner. Now I want to know how I can make a difference for others who are struggling to find housing.”
Jones had come to the right place. At the beginning of the workshop, instructor Amanda Bebrin explained the session’s mission. “If you don’t understand how the system works, you can’t make the changes you want to see happen,” she said. “Every town does things a little bit differently, but you can make a difference.”
Housing Assistance is partnering with the Cape Leadership Institute to present the Take Your Seat Initiative, which aims to provide education, resources and support to Cape Codders who are seeking elected and appointed town roles.
“It’s all about reducing the barrier for people to feel confident, informed and empowered to be part of our local government,” said Bebrin, who was elected to the Brewster Planning Board in 2021. She also serves on the town’s Vision Planning Committee and the Bay Property Planning Committee.
The 16 participants at the April Take Your Seat session included a volunteer with the Family Pantry of Cape Cod who said he meets many families in need of help with housing and a woman who was formerly a Section 8 tenant and now owns her own home. Like many of the other attendees, they said they were interested in finding ways to become advocates for affordable housing.
“Housing decisions are influenced by those who show up to town boards and town meetings,” said Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta, “We need to ensure we have engaged residents who will let their towns know that creating housing locals can afford is critical for our communities and year-round economy.”
After a primer on the workings of town government, Bebrin broke the class into small groups. Each group had to decide how to divide an annual allotment of Community Preservation Committee funding among housing, historic preservation, recreation and open space. The groups then had a chance to make a short presentation explaining how they had decided to spend the funds.
In wrapping up the class, Bebrin asked each attendee to think about what one thing they can do to get involved in the issue that matters most to them.
“Instead of speaking before a board saying, ‘You should consider this,’ if you’re on a board, you’ve shifted to ‘We are going to do this,’” she said. “We need the perspectives of people from different backgrounds, so that our government reflects us and reflects our needs.”
To learn more, visit our advocacy training page.