Falmouth Hires Company to Assess Housing Needs

After a few hiccups, Falmouth is moving ahead with an all-encompassing housing study and is on track to host an open community housing roundtable this fall.

“We want to determine our housing demands and how to meet those demands,” said Sylvia Szulkin, chair of the affordable housing roundtable subcommittee.

The town hired the consulting firm RKG Associates from Dover, New Hampshire, in April to fully assess Falmouth’s present housing market and future housing needs.

“This will be more comprehensive than past studies and we hope it will be used by many groups in many aspects of the town,” said Marlene McCollem, assistant town planner. 

The study will include a complete list of Falmouth’s affordably priced housing, a projection of demands for all types of housing, and a thorough explanation of the local housing market.

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“This is about what the community wants and needs. We know we have an affordable housing shortage, but there’s a whole group of people not being served. Professionals can’t find housing and are moving to Plymouth,” said Holly L. Wilson, member of the affordable housing committee. The committee is working with the lead consultant to put together the round table slated for September or early October.

Last month, the town signed RKG, with lead consultant Judi Barrett, to the project. Ms. Barrett is familiar with Falmouth’s housing landscape; she was the lead consultant with Community Operations Group (COG), the original firm hired by the town in 2012. The town terminated their contract in April 2013 for not meeting expectations. COG said they recently had lost a lot of staff, including Ms. Barrett, who eventually was hired by RKG.

The town issued another RFP due last August, but received no interest and RKG was the sole bidder on the most recent request issued in January this year. Ms. McCollem said she was satisfied with the company’s written proposal and performance in the interview process. The Community Preservation Committee provided the $30,000 funding for the study.

For the next few months, Ms. Barrett will be gathering and culling through data from a myriad of sources, including the census bureau, local realtors, and the town assessors’ office, to name a few. She also is interviewing stakeholders like Falmouth’s senior living director, a local clergyman and a representative from elder services and social services who work with or have knowledge of residents struggling to find affordable homes.

Because of the broad scope of the report, Ms. McCollem said organizations in town will be able to use the final report. 

She organized a citizens advisory group with members from the EDIC (Economic Development Industrial Corporation), affordable housing committee, human services, planning board and Falmouth’s housing trust to work with the contractor.

“The advisory committee will be able to get a handle on what our citizens need. Do they want rentals? Do we need more assisted living? What size lots and houses do they want?” said Ms. McCollem.

She hopes the findings can be used in the town’s comprehensive plan and to propose changes to the zoning bylaws.

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