Affordable Housing Advocates on Cape Cod: Community Engagement is Key


ORLEANS — At a housing conference in Orleans on February 2, members of several city councils and committees came together to talk not only about the challenges of creating affordable housing, but also about the possibilities.

Every indication shows that these housing problems are getting worse, and not just for those working in service industries. Professional workers, city workers, police officers, teachers — even city management officials — are feeling the pinch.

Wellfleet Select board member Janet Reinhart said her board decided to offer more money to candidates applying for the city’s top job when they began their second search in two years for a city administrator.

And Orleans Police Chief Scott MacDonald said housing issues presented other significant concerns. Open patrol positions attracted between 60 and 70 applicants, he said. The last opening attracted only eight.

“We struggle to retain talent,” he said. “We lost officers because they couldn’t afford to live here. It’s a bad investment when it costs $60,000 to train a new officer and the officer leaves.

Barriers to Affordable Housing in Cape Town

Creating affordable housing can take a long time, three to five years on average.

“It takes a lot of time, expertise and money,” said Andrea Aldana, director of housing advocacy for the Partnership for Community Development. “Funding is a headache. Partnership with developers is essential.

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Aldana presented a brief slideshow on the research the Partnership has done on affordable housing. Marsha Allgeier, Orleans Affordable Housing Coordinator, also spoke about the city’s efforts to build affordable housing, create a pipeline of projects and adopt a host of strategies to drive future efforts.

While cities play an ongoing role in affordable housing, developers are the experts at finding money to build, Aldana said. Tax credits, bonds, Community Preservation Act funds, and local money are needed, especially to leverage state and federal money.

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Unfortunately, Aldana said, there is little funding for those earning 80% to 120% of the AMI. And it is more and more employees in Cape Town who need housing.

“We know how to get there,” Aldana said. “Don’t underestimate community involvement.”

Affordable Housing Considerations for Cape Town

Density, design, environmental protection and economy should all be part of the community conversation. A density of at least 40 units seems to be the tipping point. This is the number that developers find profitable, profitable and can accommodate on-site property management.

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And dense housing design can be better for the environment, especially on a peninsula where a monoculture of single-family homes, each with its own septic tank, is the norm.

Aldana praised Orléans for meeting the village’s need for development. It is ahead of many other towns in Cape Town in that it has infrastructure to support affordable housing. The wastewater treatment and treatment plants will soon be operational. City zoning regulations allow ADUs as of right, and officials are considering changing regulations that would make it easier to build dormitories for seasonal workers.

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But she urged city officials not to rule out regional collaboration in the future.

“It’s helpful to support housing development in other cities and share CPC money between cities,” she said.

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Contact Denise Coffey at [email protected]


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