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'We need 10 times that.' Housing shortages on Cape emphasized in Healey visit.

Denise Coffey

Jun 22, 2023

HYANNIS — On Thursday Gov. Maura Healey announced a proposed capital investment plan that would make $1.55 billion available for the state’s affordable housing needs over the next five years. The plan would include a new HousingWorks program, invest $90 million annually in housing acquisition, rehabilitation and development, and make $120 million available annually to preserve the state’s nearly 50,000 units of public housing. 

Healey made the announcement in front of the Housing Assistance Corporation where she was flanked by CEO Alisa Magnotta and Secretary of Housing Edward Augustus. Behind them were pictures drawn by Monomoy Regional School District second-graders about what home meant to them.

Monomoy teacher and Massachusetts Educator Action Network member Cheri Armstrong, who created the art project, said the Cape was becoming a place of the haves and have-nots. There are so many families house-surfing, camping, and leaving the Cape, she said. 

Healey called the need for housing great, the funding historic, and she said the money would finance affordable housing across the state. She acknowledged the particular challenges on the Cape.

“As tough as things are across the state, I know they are tougher on the Cape,” Healey said. 

Housing is expensive and year-round rentals are in decline on the Cape

With median home prices hovering around $700,000, year-round rentals in decline, and some towns reporting up to 77% of their housing stock as second homes, it’s difficult for workers to find places to live. 

Paula Mallard works with Housing Assistance Corporation clients in the three family shelters operated in conjunction with the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities. “I used to say it was hard to live on the Cape but not impossible,” she said. “Now that’s not true. There is nowhere to live.” 

Healey said the proposed plan would be a lifeline for those who feel their housing is insecure.  

Augustus called the timing critical because there are fewer homes for sale on the Cape and the year-round rental market is frozen.  

“It’s clear we need more tools to spur housing development,” he said.  

State-owned parcels will become available for housing opportunities, a state official says

He said the state will partner with towns and cities to unlock potential developments, assist with infrastructure needs, and transform state-owned parcels into housing opportunities. 

The HousingWorks program will be similar to MassWorks, a program that provides grants to communities for infrastructure development. In this case the infrastructure will unlock housing opportunities. 

Community Development Partnership CEO Jay Coburn was one of many housing advocates in the audience. He said he thinks that while there is broad community support and acknowledgement that the Cape needs more housing, few have a deep understanding of the magnitude of the problem.  

“We’ve got 300 units in the pipeline on the Lower Cape and we need 10 times that,” he said. “Towns need to be more aggressive. We need to be building housing in a very different way than we have been.” 

Homeless Prevention Council CEO Hadley Luddy said her agency has seen a big increase in the 25 to 54 age group coming to them for help. “These are the people we’re serving and this is our workforce,” she said. “People don’t connect the dots necessarily.” 

Magnotta said housing projects require courage, cash and community, and that they weren’t possible without financial support from cities, towns and government. She called the Cape and Islands the canary in the coal mine. 

"What's happening here can happen anywhere,” she said. “We need housing inventory and diverse stock.”  

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