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July 01, 2015By: Richard Arsenault BANNER REPORTER

Dire Housing Shortage For Cape Residents

Dire Housing Shortage For Cape Residents
Rental Conversions Decimate Mid-Range Market
By Scott Van Voorhis | Banker & Tradesman Columnist | Oct 15, 2017

Cape Cod has long been a tourist destination. Even so, there was always a sizable year-round population of regular folks – some newcomers drawn by booming restaurants and hotels, others with roots stretching all the way back to the Pilgrims.

But the Cape now finds itself in danger of becoming not just an exclusive resort for the wealthy, but one that can’t even be bothered to make any provision for housing the help that does all the work, from cooking the meals to staffing the stores.

More and more buyers are snapping up second homes on the sandy spit, stoking a dire affordability problem for the people who keep the Cape’s tourist economy humming, from restaurant workers and store clerks to hard hats.

That’s the finding of a new report on the Cape housing market by a group of top housing consultants, which warns that Barnstable County’s affordability problem is poised to only get worse as the second home tide rolls on.

“The Cape is experiencing a long-term surge in seasonal unit demand that it has never experience before,” notes the report, recently released by the Cape Cod Commission.Half of all the second homes in Massachusetts are now on the Cape. And what little homebuilding is happening is mostly second homes, with the exception of a few, modestly-sized affordable rental projects in the works.

Demand for vacation homes is expected to grow by 6 percent over the next eight years, or twice as fast as that for year-round homes, the report notes.

The low wages in many of the Cape’s mainstay tourism businesses have combined with rising home prices to create a huge and growing “affordability gap.”

The median price of a home in Barnstable County, which covers the Cape, is $370,000 year to date through August, within striking range of pre-recession 2007, when it topped $380,000, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman. Over the last two years, prices have jumped more than $24,000 and, more importantly, are outstripping wages, which are barely keeping up with inflation, if that.

There is currently a shortage of 26,364 homes that are affordable to Cape residents making 80 percent of Barnstable County’s median household income of $63,251. That gap is expected to swell to 33,597 by 2025, according to the Cape Cod Commission’s report.

Add the lack of affordable apartments to the mix, and the housing gap more than doubles by 2025, to a shortage of over 45,000 reasonably priced homes and rentals on the Cape.

By then, though, the housing crunch will have spread to an even broader swath of Cape families, from the working-class families who are already struggling to their middle-class peers.

Families making up to roughly $80,000 will start to feel the shortage. On paper there are enough homes in $230,000 to $400,000 price range to meet demand for middle-income buyers, though it is a figure skewed by the fact that many of these homes are now occupied by seniors who want to downsize but have nowhere to go on the Cape, the report notes.

The paper surplus will be gone by 2025, with a gap between supply and demand in this price range of more than 18,000 homes.

Deserted Streets In Provincetown

However, this increasing shift towards second homes is not only driving up prices beyond the means of most year-round Cape Codders, it is also turning this classic stretch of New England coastline into a shallow vacation destination in the service of the wealthy.

In fact, a vicious cycle is already well underway in which the construction of vacation homes and conversion of year-round homes into seasonal rentals begets more of the same, the report notes.

“As the number of second home owners increases, the seasonal economy becomes stronger, more businesses close in the off season, which further increases seasonal migration, decreases municipal tax revenue from year-round residents, and increases the town’s incentive to attract more seasonal homeowners,” the commission’s report notes.

If you want to see what the future may hold for the Cape, take a look at Provincetown, which is ground zero for this trend. The town has long prided itself on being more than just a tourist destination with its mix of artists, writers and creative types with salt-of-the-earth fishermen. But as demand for second homes has surged, developers have swooped in, converting motels and homes into condos, seasonal rentals and more expensive vacation getaways.

After topping $1 million last year, the median price in Provincetown is back down to $945,000, though still way above its 2007 price of $772,000, according to The Warren Group’s stats.

Provincetown’s year-round population has dwindled and is now under 3,000 – compared to the more than 60,000 people who jam the streets and restaurants during the summer.

The number of restaurants and other establishments open year-round has declined, and the high school closed years ago. The number of students in the lower grades is also dropping off steadily, while teachers can’t find a place to live in town – even if they could afford it.

Second homeowners and investors own more than 70 percent of the housing in town, The New York Times noted in 2015. That makes for a lot of empty homes and quiet streets during the long, dark months that make of most of a New England year.

If the Cape is in danger of becoming a giant beach resort, then Provincetown offers a glimpse of a Potemkin future, one where everything is for show for a few short months and practically deserted the rest of the time.

For Cape communities with proud histories stretching back hundreds of years, that’s a sad vision to contemplate.

Maushope marks 25 years

October 8, 2011 - By: Kevin Mullaney
Maushope, the senior residential complex at 44 Harry Kemp Way owned and run by Provincetown Housing Authority, has reached a milestone this year — its 25th anniversary.

Maushope, the senior residential complex at 44 Harry Kemp Way owned and run by Provincetown Housing Authority, has reached a milestone this year — its 25th anniversary.

Maushope, the senior residential complex at 44 Harry Kemp Way owned and run by Provincetown Housing Authority, has reached a milestone this year — its 25th anniversary.

By Kevin Mullaney

Maushope, the senior residential complex at 44 Harry Kemp Way owned and run by Provincetown Housing Authority, has reached a milestone this year — its 25th anniversary.

The occasion will be marked with a celebratory party from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16. All are welcome, and the festivities will provide Outer Cape residents a chance to see what an important and unique place Maushope is. There will be a few short speeches, finger food and refreshments donated by local establishments, and live music.

The 24 units of subsidized housing are tucked in a hollow across from Outer Cape Health Services, with a narrow entrance and a low profile, which might be a reason for its longevity — bringing a low-income housing project to Provincetown was not a popular idea in the early ’80s. It is the first and last of its kind in town.

Maushope (pronounced mo-shop) is named after the legendary giant who guided the Cape Cod Indians from danger. It is run by the housing authority and provides housing to low-income seniors, people who would have to leave town were it not there. The housing authority also has several other buildings scattered throughout town that it rents to low-income families.

The creation of Maushope, finished in 1986, actually began seven years earlier with the creation, or re-creation, of the housing authority itself. At the time, there was no housing authority, or so everyone thought, and it took the perseverance of a small group of residents who bucked local politics in a turbulent time to make it happen.

“The real estate had changed,” says longtime local Jan Kelly, talking about the early condo boom. “It was depressing. Owners were selling their property and people had to be out in a month or two. It was horrible. Most of them didn’t know anything but Provincetown.”

In 1979, a grassroots movement to start a housing authority was hatched. But there was resistance from selectmen and residents when it was put on the spring Town Meeting warrant. Just prior to Town Meeting, however, COA director Grace (Gouveia) Collinson discovered that the housing authority already existed — that it had been commissioned by the state on Aug. 30, 1948, and it had never been de-commissioned. Selectman George Bryant, an advocate for the project, informed the 1979 meeting that the warrant article was now unnecessary, and it was indefinitely postponed.

Housing authorities are commissioned and funded by the state, but four of the five board members are elected locally. The fifth member is a local resident appointed by the governor. Elected that May were Arthur Martin, who became chair, Lee Robinson, Frances Sutera and Nora Welch. That fall Collinson became the governor’s appointee.

According to Kelly, who was elected to the board the following year, the state wanted the town’s housing authority to find three “scattered” properties, buy them and rent them to low-income families to prove themselves capable before they would consider funding for a senior complex.

“We all knew there was grant money available, and Grace was very savvy about that, but we had to learn how to do it, how to fill out the papers,” says Kelly. They scoured the town for available properties and by September they submitted a $280,000 grant application to the state. By December they had the check in hand.

“A small group of people in 1979 saw a need, got together and accomplished an amazing amount, and we have this building here to thank them for,” says Cheryl Andrews, a former selectman and current chair of the housing authority board. “What blows me away is how fast these guys did this. They were elected in May and by September had put together an application to the state for $280,000. These guys were in a different era and, as regular folk, put this application together and took the heat.

”The three scattered sites they purchased were single-family homes at 214 Bradford St., now the Foley House, a house on Pearl Street and another on Court Street. In 1980 they hired a part-time executive director and secretarial person.

“After we proved ourselves, we started looking around for a piece of property large enough to build this,” says Kelly, referring to Maushope and the three family units next door on Aunt Sukey’s Way. “It was not popular with neighbors.”But they did it. 

In 1983 they received a check for $1.25 million to build Maushope. “We couldn’t cash it right away and I walked around with it in my tennis racket,” says Kelly. In addition to Kelly, who was chair at the time, the other board members that year were S. Peter Codinha Jr., Carol Days, Julia McGrady and Nora Welch. By the time construction was completed, in May 1984, Robert Cuff had replaced McGrady. Collette Sullivan was the executive director.

“It all went beautifully,” says Kelly. It opened in May and was fully occupied by September. It has been full ever since. All of the original tenants at Maushope were seniors in need, including those in the handicapped units.

Only one property has been added since those early days, another house on Court Street that the town sold to the housing authority.

Tenants at Maushope pay 30 percent of their annual income in rent. It is slightly lower in the family units, 27 percent, because utilities aren’t included. According to Patrick Manning, who’s been the part-time executive director of the housing authority since 1998, other types of affordable housing can cost tenants up to 50 percent of their income. PHA’s current annual budget is $145,000, made up of both state funding and the rents. This year’s budget for maintenance and repairs is only $13,500. There are three part-time employees — Manning, a clerical position and a maintenance position.

Of the 24 units at Maushope, 20 are reserved for low-income seniors, 60 and older. The other four are handicapped units that can be rented to people under 60 who are handicapped. People tend to stay a long time when they move into Maushope and the other units. And the list of qualified people wanting to get in is over 40 names long, which, Manning says, represents a seven- to 10-year wait. It is essentially first-come, first-served, but there are preferences and priorities, all closely monitored by the state.

“All housing authorities have a huge waiting list,” says Manning. “This is a housing crisis.”

“There’s still a big need for elderly housing. We’ve wanted to add properties,” says Andrews, speaking of the failed effort last year to enter a joint venture with town over donated land that’s now open space. The town also owns 951B Commercial St., a property taken in tax title and given to the housing authority. Because it is beachfront, the board decided to sell the property and acquire another, but it has been on the market about a year and its price was dropped.

A couple weeks ago the current board — Andrews, vice chair Molly Perdue, Tom Roberts, Harriet Gordon and Nancy Jacobson — floated the idea to selectmen of possibly obtaining the soon-to-be-vacated Grace Gouveia Building on Alden Street.

“It has an almost 200-year history of being a home for people who needed a little help,” Andrews says. “It’s near town, which is great for the elderly. The problem will be financing.”The housing authority has been consulting with Michelle Jarusiewicz, the town’s housing specialist and grant guru, about potential financing sources.

“There’s plenty of needs but there’s not a lot of money,” says Andrews. “It’s as simple as that. The challenge is to do what you can with what you’ve got.”