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Affordable housing agencies team up to teach ‘smarter policy’

CAPE COD TIMES

By Geoff Spillane - @GSpillaneCCT

HYANNIS — The Housing Assistance Corp. and Community Development Partnership are joining forces to create the Cape Housing Institute, a program for elected officials and municipal leaders to learn about navigating the process of affordable housing development.

The two organizations will announce the partnership Friday at the Cape Cod Commission’s OneCape Summit at the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis.

The program is designed to bring together community leaders and influencers to alleviate time-consuming and expensive obstacles to development by creating better land-use policies and planning tools.

The institute’s workshops are geared initially toward selectmen, councilors, zoning and planning board members and Community Preservation Act committees.

“This is a regional issue,” said Alisa Galazzi, CEO of Housing Assistance Corp., stressing the importance of towns collaborating to address the challenges in creating affordable housing.

The program is based on the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s annual Housing Institute. The state program will provide the curriculum and speakers for the Cape institute.

“We’re bringing the resources down here,” Galazzi said.

The Cape Housing Institute will offer a free six-week session in October. The session will consist of a weekly two-hour workshop, and will be offered at locations on the Upper, Mid-, Lower and Outer Cape. Participants who attend all six workshops will receive a certificate of completion.

Topics to be discussed during the session include how to conduct a needs assessment; how to finance projects and work with developers; building community support for affordable housing; and determining whether zoning laws need to be changed to make projects less cumbersome and costly.

“It’s clear to me there’s a lot of support (on the Cape) for affordable housing until it has an address,” said Jay Coburn, executive director of the Eastham-based Community Development Partnership.

Galazzi and Coburn both say for the Cape to make significant strides in addressing the affordable housing shortfall, communities need to examine easing density regulations.

“We need to get smart about this and build where people can live and walk to village centers,” Coburn said.

“At the end of the day, this is about how we use land,” he said, noting that some of the Cape’s most densely built towns, such as Provincetown and Chatham, are among its most charming.

The two affordable housing experts also expressed concern about the Cape becoming oversaturated with second homes that sit empty for much of the year.

“We need to figure this out before we become Nantucket,” Galazzi said. “We have time, but not a lot.”

Coburn said second-home owners should not be demonized, as many care deeply about the community, but a balance needs to be struck.

In early 2018, the institute will begin advocacy training for community members to become activists for promoting affordable housing so the Cape’s workforce — vital to sustain the economy — can afford to live here.

“We need to empower people to speak up and put a face to affordable housing,” Galazzi said.

Coburn summed up the mission and objective of the new program.

“We need smarter policy,” he said. “And density, so we’re not gobbling up land.”

Additional details and registration information for the Cape Housing Institute is available online at CapeHousingInstitute.org


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