At the start of this fiscal year, which started last July for us, we decided to begin a new initiative to develop white papers on a variety of subjects related to housing and our clients on the Cape and Islands. This endeavor was launched as we contemplated our 40-plus-year history and the 40 years ahead.
During the past four decades we have helped more than 160,000 people with a wide variety of services related to housing. HAC’s efforts have garnered results in many ways. We hope we have changed attitudes. We have helped create new organizations to accomplish our or related missions and we may have precipitated an environment that is a lot more friendly to the idea of public involvement in creating housing that is “affordable.”
The fundamental problem in our region, as I have said many times, consists of several components: 1) our seasonal demand drives up housing prices; 2) our service-based economy provides low-paying jobs; 3) the cost of building rental housing for year-round tenants is too high to provide a return on investment with the rents local people can afford to pay; 4) lack of multifamily zoning districts makes land appropriate to build multifamily rentals in short supply; 5) lack of public wastewater systems makes it difficult to build rental developments of a size that provides efficiencies of scale.
I appreciate that we, at HAC, have won many battles to provide decent housing for people, but we have lost the war so far in that housing problems are worse now than they were when we started in 1974. One result of this conclusion is that we have started to research and publish “white papers” to help add to the information we need as civic leaders and citizens to make the most informed decisions possible to improve the future availability of housing for an economically diverse population in our region.
We hope to publish four papers a year. Some of the topics under consideration now are:
- The shortage of rental housing for young professionals, seniors and people with lower incomes. Presently, demand exceeds supply.
A report card on how town-based Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds are being used.
- The relationship between housing insecurity to children’s health, education, and the general well being and prospects for their future.
- The relationship between trauma in early life and homelessness.
- Regulatory barriers to providing housing for those on the autism spectrum.
Housing Court for Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties: Do we need one and will it happen?
- Reverse mortgages: the benefits and the pitfalls.
I hope you take the opportunity to read our future white papers on our website and email us your comments and suggestions for future subjects.