OBSERVER CORPS REPORT 2023
The Mission Statement of the Affordable Housing Committee:
The Falmouth Affordable Housing Committee assists the Board of Selectmen in its efforts to provide a full range of housing choices for households of all incomes, ages, and abilities. The Committee works to identify our workforce housing needs, to reduce the out-migration of our younger residents, and to minimize the displacement of our elderly on fixed incomes.
The AHC serves in an advisory capacity to support the Select Board. Its current members are: Kerry Walton (Chair), Jessica O’Brien (Vice-Chair), David Garrison (Clerk), Pamela Harting-Barrat, Gina Torielli, and Chinna Mapp. As of July 1, Kerry Walton steps down and David Garrison will become Chair; Chinna Mapp will become Clerk, with Jessica O’Brien staying on as Vice Chair. A number of housing-related administrators, developers, and interested citizens also attend the monthly meetings. The Affordable Housing Committee is staffed by a caring and talented group of Falmouth citizens who continue to seek out, propose, and monitor those housing projects that will best serve the town.
Falmouth is in a housing crisis. This is not exaggeration or marketing drama. Rental units are at an all-time low, as are mid-priced homes. The people who staff our police and fire departments, our hospital, our schools, our restaurants, our retail establishments, and so on are unable to afford the purchase price of the few available homes, and there are shockingly few places to rent. Plus, there is a growing need for emergency and transitional housing, as well as permanent housing.
The Affordable Housing Committee is constantly on the lookout for the ways and means to build up the housing inventory in town. There have been some very successful projects completed this year: Megansett Crossing in North Falmouth, with all 10 units affordable; Lewis Neck Road, with 4 affordable houses; the Willett Way community of 6 homes built by Habitat for Humanity; and a home on Pheasant Lane originally destined for demolition, which is now a deed-restricted affordable home.
There are a number of on-going projects that are either completely or inclusive of some affordable units. Brick Kiln Road, Scranton and Main Street, and the Crooked Meadow condominiums are among these. And there are some projects currently in the development pipeline: these include the Saxon Partners proposal to build a 40-B multi-apartment rental complex off Sandwich Road and the conversion of the former Royal Nursing Home into rental workforce housing.
The issues that challenge these proposals are the universal bugaboos: traffic congestion, wastewater complications, and changes in neighborhood quality of life. The Affordable Housing Committee has listened to these project presentations and is searching out alternative answers to counter the community objections. It is clear that Falmouth needs to upgrade and streamline its permitting process to allow ecologically innovative construction and to encourage renovation and repurposing of existing but unused buildings. Design guidelines are another necessary component of a successful attainable housing future for Falmouth: neighbors will be more accepting of new rental buildings if those buildings are attractive and welcoming to both the renters and the neighbors.
The future of Falmouth, and the Cape in general, lies in the production of housing stock accessible to all economic levels of its inhabitants. The Affordable Housing Committee remains vigilant and committed to the return of a well-housed community.
Lynn Rosza, LWVF Observer