February Infrastructure: Housing

The Cape Cod Commission is working on an update of the regional policy plan – a “coherent set of regional planning policies and objectives to guide development throughout said Barnstable County and to protect the region’s resources.”  The plan has to be revised at least every five years.

In the past, this committee has reviewed the plan on behalf of the Council, which then submitted comments. For instance, the Council was able to get the Commission to look at technology buildings differently in terms of traffic patterns, not like a strip mall where people are coming and going.

Updated information on stakeholder meetings is on the Commission’s website.

The main issue we discussed at February’s Infrastructure Meeting was housing. Low income housing is coming along, but we also need housing for people who have jobs on the Cape but have problems finding affordable housing.

They have been discussing this issue at SmarterCape, where the buzzword for this year’s Smarter Cape Summit is “Dense is Smart.” the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Cape Cod, a new member of SmarterCape, is looking at village center housing – a concept that’s especially appealing to millennials.

Millennials are looking for buildings that can handle the technology. The idea is to replicate urban areas, where you can walk to restaurants, shops, etc. Gigabit Neighborhoods are popping up across the country, drawing young workers to cities they may have otherwise passed by.

There is this technology component to housing, but it may be that human infrastructure is enough to warrant looking into it. We could also advocate for any housing that is brought in that has the technology element.

We as a community should be thinking about incorporating smart technology in housing stock when we plan to build or rehab. One way the Infrastructure Committee could get involved is to research what was put into the housing stock in the gigabit cities, where new Google fiber in existing housing is revitalizing neighborhoods. Smart housing can be more than “the internet of things.”

On Cape Cod people have apartments they could rent, but zoning has made it difficult. SmarterCape is looking at bylaws to allow for accessory housing, as long as rentals stay within the building codes. They are working on a sample set of bylaws that towns could use as a model. A lot of the solution will be done town by town, with the planning boards.

We discussed the possibility of a database for available rental housing, but concluded that the problem is that there is no available housing to list.

It is very difficult to find a year round rental, and it is incredibly expensive. How do we stimulate more, and create density? Zoning and title five is an issue in many towns. We believe there needs to be some consensus on the Cape, to make a development decision.

It was also brought to our attention that the Department of Agriculture has money for grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The loan amounts are reported to be enormous, and geared toward anyone in a rural area, not just for farmers. More information is on the USDA website.

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