Between July and December, 291 households, most with good incomes and rental history, came to Housing Assistance for help because their landlord was selling their home and they couldn’t find a year-round rental.
“The housing crisis has become so acute that we can no longer afford to remain on the sidelines of housing policy and advocacy,” said Housing Assistance CEO Alisa Magnotta. “We’re an excellent service provider but that is no longer sufficient in a housing market where we’re losing ground faster than our eroding shores. We need to fix the underlying housing supply problem, so our front line staff have options to provide clients in need.”
Magnotta explained, “To help Housing Assistance expand our resources and influence, I’m thrilled to bring Stefanie Coxe in to serve as our Chief External Affairs Officer. She will oversee marketing, communications, and bolster our advocacy and government affairs initiatives.”
As a Smarter Cape consultant, Coxe successfully passed zoning bylaws in most Cape towns to allow accessory dwelling units. She brings extensive political and advocacy expertise to Housing Assistance. As the Executive Director of the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, Coxe led the charge during the pandemic to advocate for meaningful reforms and resourcing of the state’s emergency rental assistance program, which resulted in preventing over 80,000 evictions statewide.
Coxe’s relationships and experience with the Cape’s political leadership go back decades. She has worked as an aide for two state representatives and a U.S. Congressman representing the Cape over her career and now owns Nexus Werx LLC, a political consulting and lobbying training company.
As a consultant, she co-authored our 2018 report titled “Housing on Cape Cod: The High Cost of Doing Nothing.” What the report predicted then is coming true at an accelerated pace: businesses closed multiple days in the height of summer due to staffing shortages attributed to the displacement of locals; municipalities grappling with major hurdles attracting and retaining employees, impacting services; and year-round traffic at an all-time high as workers are recruited from over the bridges.
“Households making a combined $200,000 are struggling to find rentals or buy,” said Magnotta. “With such limited supply, whoever has the most money is going to win out and that means local working families will continue to be displaced unless and until we take housing production seriously.”
“Advocating for zoning changes and housing projects will help Housing Assistance achieve our strategic plan goal of increasing inventory, diversity, and affordability of housing in our region with a minimal impact on our environment,” said Magnotta.
Coxe said it was important to amplify the voices of locals who don’t typically speak up. “Decisions are made by those who show up,” she said. “Unfortunately, that is too often those who already have housing and who say ‘not in my backyard.’ Flipping that dynamic necessitates making civic engagement easier by providing the public with tools, training, and ease of access.”
In addition, HAC hired Ann Schiffenhaus to work under Coxe as the Director of Community Relations and Advocacy. As a former high-level account executive, she will use her entrepreneurial skills and mindset to help employers engage in housing advocacy. Schiffenhaus joins Scott Lajoie, Director of Government Affairs in the External Affairs Department.
Schiffenhaus said her ultimate goal is to educate everyday people about the overall impact of not having enough of the right kind of housing and how to get engaged to change the course of events. That includes working people and business owners, along with concerned parents and grandparents. “We know there’s a silent majority who want housing opportunities for locals. Our job is to make those voices heard.”
“We can fast track our marketing and advocacy efforts with the expertise Stefanie and Ann bring,” said Magnotta. “Together, we’re stronger,” said Magnotta.
A 14th-generation Cape Codder, Coxe said, “I want to make sure that another fourteen generations can continue to live here. We’re rapidly losing the sustainability of our home. The Cape is in the fight of its life; it’s now or never. But with the engagement of other locals who love our community, I know we can turn the tide.”