|HAC Board President Mark Forest (from left), Barnstable Town Councilor Paula Schnepp, and Barnstable Housing Committee member Hilda Haye lead a Cape Housing Advocacy Training session last month.
Just how bad is the housing situation on Cape Cod and the Islands? Yarmouth Selectman Mark Forest, the chair of HAC’s Board of Directors, termed it a crisis. Forest spoke during Cape Housing Advocacy Training held at Shepley Showcase in Hyannis last month.
Solving that crisis, he said, cannot be done at the federal or state level. “It really today is coming to be a local issue,” he told those in attendance. “We have to deal with this on our watch. And if we don’t, the Cape is going to continue to change in ways that are incredibly dramatic and it will be unlike the kind of Cape Cod that we have grown quite fond of.”
Since last year, HAC has worked with Community Development Partnership (CDP) in Eastham to support communities throughout the Cape in addressing their housing challenges. It started last fall with the Cape Housing Institute, aimed at municipal officials, and expanded last month to Cape Housing Advocacy Training, aimed at the general public.
With workshops so far held on the Mid-Cape, Lower Cape and Outer Cape, advocacy training has been geared to giving residents the tools, resources, support and motivation to speak up in favor of affordable housing projects in their towns. A total of 70 residents have taken part in the sessions with another 40 set to do so on the Upper Cape in Falmouth this month.
|Barnstable Housing Committee member Hilda Haye encourage participants in HAC's Cape Housing Advocacy Training to be more active in their community.
The Mid-Cape workshop began with Paula Hersey, the director of outreach and special projects at Cape Cod Community Media Center, sharing her story about struggling to find housing with her husband in the late 1980s. “We lived above a heroin dealer,” she said. “We moved six times in three years… We ate a lot of Ramen, couch surfed, and lived in unfinished basements. It has not been easy.”
Eventually, they were able to find a place, becoming one of the first homeowners in a Chapter 40B development in Marstons Mills. By telling her story, Hersey said, she hoped to “remove the stigma associated” with affordable housing.
A significant piece of advocacy training was focused on just that – getting residents to speak up at public meetings about why affordable housing is important to them.
Barnstable Town Councilor Paula Schnepp, another speaker, said doing so can make a difference. “It really is helpful that your voice is heard,” she said.
Barnstable Housing Committee member Hilda Haye, also a speaker at the training, said, “it is time for us all to get involved… This is our community that we live in and we need to do something… We all need to play our part.” It is this type of activism that Mark Forest said can make a real difference when it comes to affordable housing. “The reality is that what we do in our towns… is critical in terms of making any real progress,” he said.
To stay up to date on upcoming Cape Housing Advocacy Training sessions, click this link.