• Easing the Cape Cod housing crunch with incentive for year-round rentals

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    Finding an affordable place to rent is a problem across much of Massachusetts, including Cape Cod.

    What’s different there, however, is many houses are vacant most of the year.

    A new program called Rent 365 is trying to get those dwellings occupied year-round. It even includes a $1,000 payment as an incentive to out-of-town homeowners.


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    Scott and Joanna Bennett know how hard it is to find a place to live on the Cape. They both have multiple college degrees and good jobs, but when they started looking for an apartment, they were stunned.

    "The limitations for housing are pretty widespread and you heard pretty much everyone talk about it,” said Scott. "It actually has these wide-ranging effects where you find a lot of people who are in a relationship and are putting off getting married, or they put off having kids.”

    "We have less than 1 percent vacancy on the Cape for year-round rentals,” said Alisa Magnotta Galazzi, CEO of the Housing Assistance Corporation in Hyannis.  

    She says that a couple of months ago her agency, which often deals with clients confronting homelessness, saw a change in the issues people were bringing to the agency. "We started to experience clients who were fully housed, paying market rate rent, and stable employed coming in, and saying, hey, my house was just purchased, and the new owner wants to try their hand at seasonal rental, so they are displaced.”

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    With the growth of online rental sites in recent years, Galazzi says more investors bought homes on the Cape with the idea of renting them out in the summer. "In fact, we lost 3,000 year-round housing units in the past five years and gained 6,000 seasonal homes. We can’t continue that trend.”

    To stem this growing problem, the HAC is trying this new and novel approach called Rent 365. "What we’re seeing is there is a glut of seasonal rentals on Cape Cod and people aren’t making as much money as they thought.”

    The program helps homeowners with tenant selection, provides legal support, and even gives the new landlord a $1,000 signing bonus. "It’s at least something to get the conversation started, right?” added Galazzi. 

    It's an out of the box approach, but it might help preserve the Cape’s quality of life.  

    Galazzi added, "I think in order to keep Massachusetts competitive as a destination for tourists and a destination for employers, we have to have a place for people to live. The Islands experienced what it looks like if they lose their employees. Provincetown has really become the clarion call, where the future is if we only have it be retirees and seasonal homes.”

    Without some remedy, Joanna Bennett worries about the Cape’s future.  

    "You end up with this kind of mass exodus, and I mean we have seen it time after time after time, with our friends who are here, and they leave. They have to move away. They cannot make it work here because there's nowhere to live.”

    Rent 365 is currently a pilot program limited to the first 25 homeowners who sign a lease. Organizers are confident this approach will be a hit on the Cape and can be expanded over the long term. 

    As for Scott and Joanna, they did find a place for their family, but it took a little creativity and a lot of stamina.

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