High rents and housing costs have led to a severe labor shortage in the region, but a new coalition of organizations recently convened in a summit to proactively address the issue that impacts the Cape Cod economy.
The initiative, Housing to Protect Cape Cod (HPCC) is a partnership of Housing Assistance Corporation, Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS®, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, CapeBuilt Companies and the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod. The HPCC is a community organizing initiative that mobilizes residents and local businesses in support of policies that foster year-round housing while protecting the Cape’s critical environmental resources and community character. The coalition formally launched its vision for solving the Cape’s housing crisis at a summit on Nov. 3 at the Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis.
Speakers included local business leaders and workers along with keynote speaker Tim Cornwell, author of a new report prepared for the Housing Assistance Corporation that examines the housing and labor crisis and its economic impact. The report analyzes how the housing shortage impacts Cape Cod’s economic outlook and paints a stark picture.
“The displacement the Cape is experiencing is unsustainable for its economy,” said Cornwell, who works for The Concord Group.
According to his study, the Cape is losing more than 800 households a year of those making $100,000 or less a year. And nearly 50 percent of people who work on Cape Cod commute from another county. Households making a combined $200,000 are struggling to rent or buy on Cape Cod. And, with rising rental and home prices and shrinking inventory causing many workers to leave the Cape, business owners and municipalities are struggling to staff their shops, restaurants, professional practices, and town departments.
Ryan Castle, CEO of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS, said the time has come to get serious about housing availability and affordability.
“The housing strategy over the last 20 to 30 years created a wide gulf for middle income housing,” he said. “We have a zoning policy that encourages large lots and more expensive homes, and we have a housing affordability strategy that focuses exclusively on the most in need. We need both a ‘capital a’ strategy and a strategy for the missing middle.”
“We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” agreed Alisa Magnotta, Housing Assistance CEO. “Sometimes it takes a crisis to bring everyone together. We’ve known anecdotally that we’ve been losing working-age people as they lose their rental housing, but this report lays out the cold, hard data. We can’t turn our attention away any longer because the problem is too difficult. We have to face it — it’s now or never.”
“All of these organizations look at housing through different lenses, so it says something that we’re all coming together,” said Chris Flanagan, executive officer of the Homebuilders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod. “We all recognize that there is a housing crisis and that there is a critical need for people to be able to live here and work here. Pre-pandemic and throughout the pandemic, we’ve experienced a huge labor shortage and an incredible increase in housing prices, and the issue has only gotten worse. We’re recognizing that we all need to work together to do something about it.”
“The future of a vibrant, viable Cape depends on supply housing opportunities across an entire spectrum of forms and markets and incomes,” said Rob Brennan, president of CapeBuilt Development. “We need housing for the women and men and families who are the soul, who are the engine and who are the creative class that makes Cape Cod such an attractive and inviting home and destination.”
The study urged local, county and state governments to act with “Swift and corrective legislation…if the Cape has any hope in regaining its labor force and preventing further displacement of crucial laborers and workers.”
“We have talked about the housing shortage for the past twenty years,” said Paul Niedzwiecki, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. “There’s been a lot of conferences. There’s been a lot of planning, but what we need is action. HPCC will organize and train people to get them galvanized to create the change needed in each town and that’s why it’s going to make a difference.”
“We need residents, employees and employers to amplify our message and advocate for solutions,” said Magnotta. “Our aim is to protect the Cape we love — for generations to come.”
Summit sponsors included Cape Air, Cape Associates, CapeBuilt Companies, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, the Cape Cod and Islands Association of REALTORS®, the Cape Codder Resort and Spa, the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Eastern Bank, the Homebuilders and Remodelers of Cape Cod and Housing Assistance Corporation.