Feb 6, 2023
WELLFLEET — Boxes crammed kitchen counters and spilled out into the living room on Thursday. Clothes were yet to be hung in closets. But on Danielle Clarke’s second day in a year-round rental home, she was so happy she couldn't find the words to describe it.
Clarke, along with her mother, sister, 4-year-old niece and a friend moved into the year-round, five-bedroom, two-bath rental on Feb. 1. She and her family have been looking for a house to rent for five years.
Prior to moving into her new home, she had been living at the Truro Motor Inn since 2018. Her mother had been there since 2016.
Clarke, a dispatcher for the Truro Police Department, found the rental through the Lower Cape Housing & ADU Resource Center. The Center is a partnership between the Homeless Prevention Council and the Community Development Partnership. The Center’s goal is to be a resource for low- and moderate-income residents on the Lower Cape, and rental property owners who want to help with the housing crisis on Cape Cod.
The rental listing was the Center’s first.
“The fact that this is the first one speaks to the incredible sense of despair and hopelessness among many people,” said Jay Coburn, CEO of the Community Development Partnership. “Everyone is looking for housing and no one can find it.”
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The Center’s challenge is to overcome that sense of hopelessness, Coburn said. It offers financial incentives and technical assistance to homeowners interested in building accessory dwelling units, in-law suites or basement apartments. It offers services geared toward both landlords and tenants to make renting go smoothly.
And the Center’s housing stabilization fund can help residents who are not eligible for traditional housing support such as RAFT, the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition.
Brewster resident Diane Pansire owns the home that Clarke now rents. The home boasts maximum solar panels on the roof, a high-efficiency HVAC system, heat pumps, propane gas for backup and a generator. The $3,100 monthly rent covers Pansire’s expenses, she said.
“I believe in making money in a way that’s beneficial to the community,” Pansire said. “The property will double in value in the next 10 to 20 years and that’s when I’ll make my money.”
Pansire is well acquainted with the housing shortage on the Cape. She works on affordable housing issues as a member of the Brewster Housing Partnership. As a mortgage loan officer for Cape Cod 5, she sees that need daily.
“These (renters) are four people who work in our local economy who are going to be able to continue to work in their positions, which is important to our small businesses and essential services,” said Hadley Luddy, CEO of the Homeless Prevention Council.
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More than 2,700 people came through the doors of the council in 2021. The client load for five case managers and Program Director Maggi Flanagan has more than doubled since the pandemic hit.
The council purchased an outreach van to reach more vulnerable people. It instituted a new rental assistance program, expanded residential services and supported local residents in need with more than $149,400 in financial assistance.
ARPA money helped Clarke with security deposit, first, last month rent
A $1 million Housing Stabilization Fund funded through the American Rescue Plan Act helped Clarke and her housemates meet the first, last and security deposit downpayment they needed to move into their new home.
They were not eligible for more traditional funding measures because their total income was higher than the guidelines allowed for those programs. The fund helped bridge the gap between their savings and the downpayment.
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Clarke had participated in the council’s REACH program and used its $2,000 stipend towards getting an associate's degree in Criminal Justice from Cape Cod Community College. That helped her land a job as a dispatcher in Truro. She also works as a housekeeper for a Provincetown hotel.
In spite of a busy schedule, Clarke kept in touch with council staff. Flanagan would call when apartments became available, but the rentals were always gone by the time Clarke could respond. That focus on long-term and case management services, developing rapport is how the council works, Luddy said.
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The council worked with Pensire, too, making sure documents such as W-2 tax forms, references and credit reports from the four women got into her hands so she could make a rental decision. The Homeless Prevention Council helped make the relationship happen, Pensire said.
Pensire vetted the renters, checked their credit reports, called references and reviewed W-2s. The decision to rent or not was hers but partnering with the council helped.
Now the hardest task facing Clarke and her housemates is unpacking. Curtains grace the windows. Bedrooms have been chosen.
Clarke said she is on the waiting list for a more permanent affordable housing unit in Eastham, Brewster and Provincetown. But it can take five years to get to the head of the line. In the meantime, she is one of the lucky ones with a year-round rental.
“We're hoping Diane’s efforts will inspire others,” Luddy said. “We need more people to rent year-round, to follow in the footsteps of Diane who reached out to us to say, ‘I’ve got a rental.’”
Contact Denise Coffey at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT