“It’s the saddest thing,” said Jennifer Cabral to Paul Sullivan, our reporter working on a story about people looking for reasonably priced places to live. Cabral is the moderator of a Facebook group called “Provincetown: Housing for Rent.” What saddens her is seeing the “huge, gaping need” that seems only to get worse.
And that is the situation in the Outer Cape town that has actually compiled the best record of providing affordable housing opportunities. Christine Legere reported in these pages last week that Provincetown’s 206 affordable rental units amount to 9.7 percent of the town’s total housing stock, just under the state’s recommended minimum of 10 percent. Meanwhile, Eastham has 119 affordable units, or 4.5 percent of its total stock; Wellfleet has 38 units, or 2.5 percent; and Truro has just 25 units, or 2.3 percent.
The housing crisis is the local news story that simply won’t go away. It plays a role in many other stories, like K.C. Myers’s report this week about Truro’s inability to find people to take jobs at town hall, in the police and fire departments, or as camp counselors in the town’s summer recreation program.
“The housing issue has gone from a crisis to a disaster,” said Bob Weinstein, chair of the Truro Select Board.
Last July, state Sen. Julian Cyr angered a lot of people by writing on our op-ed page that resistance to the Cloverleaf development in North Truro was part of a larger pattern of inequity that must be confronted. “Are we willing to follow through on our commitment to racial justice in our own community?” Cyr asked. “Will we put aside the exaggerated arguments that mask a persistent NIMBYism, understanding that those tactics serve racist ends?”
Some readers who opposed the Cloverleaf development were outraged because they thought that Cyr had called them racists. He didn’t. But those folks are not interested in shades of meaning, weighing evidence, or subjecting their own opinions to the discipline of logic. If they were, they wouldn’t be spreading false stories about blue baby syndrome or for-profit developers like Ted Malone getting rich off the rents he collects from people with modest incomes.
Christine Legere and Paul Benson write in this week’s edition about the financing of affordable housing developments like the Cloverleaf, still to be built, and completed projects like Sally’s Way in Truro, Province Landing in Provincetown, and the Village at Nauset Green in Eastham. No one is getting rich by building these rental apartments that are deed-restricted so they will remain available to people of modest and middling means. And the cost to the towns of helping developers realize their plans is stunningly low: between $15,000 and $32,000 per unit.
Will more affordable developments like Sally’s Way and Provincetown’s Stable Path destroy the “character” of our towns, as the nay-sayers argue? That depends on what character you’re talking about — the far-sighted and hopeful one, or the self-absorbed and cynical one.