PROVINCETOWN — At a “Shark Tank without the teeth” held online on May 19, eight people made three-minute pitches to an audience of 60 and a panel of six judges with their ideas for creating more affordable housing in Provincetown.
Three of the pitches — to create a cap-and-trade market for short-term rental licenses, for a housing pledge to sell to first-time buyers, and to expand the number of accessory dwelling units — won cash prizes, and the first-place winner will get a chance to make his pitch to Provincetown Town Manager Alex Morse.
The “housing pitch contest” was set up by the nonprofit Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Cape Cod, whose program manager, Amanda Kaiser, hosted the meeting and made the “Shark Tank” comparison. Cosponsors were the Provincetown Commons and the town of Provincetown.
The cap-and-trade idea was pitched by Paul Benson, a reporter for the Independent, who also works as a bartender. There are currently 1,100 short-term rental units in Provincetown, he said.
“We need to realize that market forces are not done pushing,” Benson argued. Put a limit on the number of such units, issue licenses for the 1,100 existing units, and allow the license holders to sell them, he said, and “market forces will shift those licenses towards the largest and most valuable properties, opening up the smallest and least valuable units for attic and basement apartments that were the historic homes for this town’s workforce.”
Benson also proposed to increase the number of year-round rentals by harnessing the need to elevate Commercial Street residential properties as the risk of flooding increases. The town should expand pier privileges and allow waterfront property owners to extend the “buildable area of their properties, but only if owners construct two or more new residential units on that pier space.”
Benson’s pitch won first prize from the judges, worth $1,000, as well as the fan favorite prize for another $500.
“Unanimously, we felt this was the strongest proposal,” said state Sen. Julian Cyr, who was one of the judges.
Cyndy Cotton won the $750 second prize for her pitch for the “Cape Cod Housing Pledge,” whereby “home owners would sign a pledge to sell or rent their home to a first-time home owner,” she said. “There are so many good people who want to see what they loved about Cape Cod carried on in another family. It’s a way to bring attention to this issue.”
Cotton said she hopes to change the tone of the housing conversation. That hope was reflected in opening remarks by Stefanie Coxe, another one of the judges, who said, “The biggest barrier to affordable housing is NIMBYism.”
Coxe, who is chief external affairs officer of the Housing Assistance Corp., noted that Wellfleet has a housing buy down program to assist qualified first-time buyers, who receive up to $175,000 in grant money from the town’s community preservation funds. But finding willing sellers is difficult, Coxe pointed out. Wellfleet’s program has resulted in eight houses being sold over a period of 12 years.
Wild Care Collective owner Mariah Fidalgo won third prize and $500 for her pitch to expand the number of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
“My dream would be to expand the bylaws as to what an ADU could be,” she said, to include, for example, “less permanent structures such as tiny houses or campers — structures that don’t have to be tied in to a traditional septic system.”
Cyr asked if the cost of materials for these structures might present a financial barrier. Fidalgo responded that a tiny home’s construction cost, $30,000 to $60,000, would be the same as the down payment on a standard Cape home.
Among the other hopefuls was Karen Cappotto, a founder of the Provincetown Commons, who pitched the work of Minneapolis-based real estate developer Artspace, which she contacted during the Commons development. She proposed that Artspace redevelop the Provincetown Inn into a mixture of year-round housing and short-term rentals.
Cyr pointed out that the inn is in a flood plain, and Cappotto responded, “I can’t stop the floods from coming in, so maybe this isn’t the right property, but the concept would work.”
Christopher George pitched a home reclamation project to “raise money for the purchase of local homes” to be rented affordably. George acknowledged that the project would require extensive fundraising but said it could “change the pie chart of available resources.”
“We would even use a boat, if possible,” he said.
Annie Gauger argued that the town should use prefabricated homes to house residents on unused town-owned lots.
Todd Ellis pitched the idea of a 30-day minimum rental period. And Steve Baty argued for unused town-owned properties to be converted to 900-square-foot lots where residents could place mobile homes.
The other judges of the contest were Cape Cod Young Professionals CEO Kristen Clothier, East End Market owner Oriana Conklin, restaurateur Mac Hay, and Community Housing Resource President Ted Malone.