on Housing




A White Paper on Affordable 
Housing, by 
Thomas N. George






























page last updated September 09, 2005


Perspectives on 



A White Paper on Affordable Housing,
Page 3


I spent a number of years representing landlords in eviction proceedings, and I have come to realize in many cases the attitudes of both the landlords and tenants prohibited swift resolution of the matters at hand.  Landlords should be taught that not all tenants can be ”perfect in every way,” and the tenants should realize that even though they are paying rent, it does not give them carte blanche to treat the property as if it has no value.  An attitude of mutual respect must be developed and maintained. 
        The town of Dennis just created the Rental Preinspection Program, which will run on a voluntary basis, and it is a fine idea.  The landlords and tenants both have verification of the condition of the rental at the outset, and the town provides each party with the local and state regulations and statutes so that each can better understand their duties and responsibilities.  This forward-looking program can help eliminate situations in which landlords develop ”tenant fatigue” and sell their properties, thereby removing properties from the rental market, while tenants become frustrated and unable to cope with seemingly uncaring landlords.


*    *     *

The solution to housing shortages is not more vouchers or subsidy monies, although these have a place; rather, the objective is to get more units that a working family can afford into the marketplace.  I repeat, money drives that question, and it is in:

The cost per unit 
            ◦Land costs (density)
            ◦Building costs (code issues and manufactured homes)

Bank assistance 
            ◦Longer amortization terms
            ◦Return of the common-form loan:  interest only;
                        with owner’s benefiting by appreciation
                        in value but not reduction of mortgage
                        unless reduction was voluntary

Acceptance of technical advancement in septic systems 
   (as allowed in many states) 
            ◦Allows greater density
            ◦Reduces building costs

We need to realize that when the term housing is used, we don’t have to automatically think of a three-bedroom ranch, with two baths and a full cellar.  Many one- and two-bedroom units are needed for people who would like to downsize their living space due to increased taxes, utility costs, maintenance headaches, and so on.  This, in turn, would free up homes that could be sold to larger families.  If the downsizing couple or single person potentially needs nursing home care, it should be explained to them that a reduced-price sale or a rent-to-buy arrangement with a young couple could be of benefit to both parties.
        The concept of congregate living for older citizens needs to be developed and built upon.  The most common example of this now is the proliferation of luxury units now appearing on the Cape that offer medical and meal amenities.  Why is this option reserved for those who can afford thousands per month?  Services are what our elderly need most, and they have trouble getting them, marooned in ranch houses all alone.  Affordable living space with common rooms could be developed for people with differing levels of need—that is, congregate living for families, seniors, and singles.
        These are only a few ideas and proposals on how I think the affordable housing dilemma can be addressed.  None is the sole solution, and all need to be considered.  The single most important point I would like to make is that we, as a community, need to achieve consensus as to what kind of place we want Cape Cod to be.  Those who want the Cape preserved as if it were an exhibit need to recognize that we need to provide affordable places where our workforce can live and raise families.  Those who advocate for others need to recognize that the American dream is exactly that—a dream to be worked toward, with intermediate steps.  There is not a three-bedroom birthright.  The time for whispering and finger pointing is done; the time for pragmatic action toward a viable economic solution has begun.

Thomas N. George

Former Massachusetts State Representative
First Barnstable District


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