We’ve been speaking about affordable housing in the Enterprise offices, since a few of our staff members are looking for and struggling to find a place to live on (or even near) the Cape.

How to deal with the housing crisis is a common conversation in businesses, committees and groups across the Cape, and the term “affordable housing” is really a spectrum of different categories as opposed to a single definition.

The challenges of, and solutions for, each category will differ, but they all must be addressed if the Cape’s economy is to grow in a sustainable and equitable fashion, especially as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are four general categories of people who are seeking housing they can afford (the list could be expanded or subdivided):

Downsizers (or Empty-Nesters): Couples or individuals who are at or past retirement age and are looking to buy or rent a smaller, more manageable home (usually a house or condominium). This does not include those looking for a second home.

Over-Median Workforce: Individuals, couples and families who earn above the Cape’s median income and who are looking to buy or rent a house, condominium or apartment year-round. This includes house-sharing arrangements.

Under-Median Workforce: Individuals, couples and families who earn at or below the Cape’s median income and who are looking to buy or, more likely, rent a house, condominium or apartment year-round. This includes house-sharing arrangements. The state might subsidize housing in this category.

Seasonal Workers: Individuals who are looking to rent an apartment or room for the summer and shoulder seasons. An employer may subsidize housing.

In all of these cases, the demand for suitable housing outstrips the supply, and what keeps the prices so high is enormous competition on the renter/buyer side and significant money to be made on the seller/landlord side. But there are different strategies required to address the needs and desires of each of the above categories.

One person’s “affordable” is not another’s, yet these are all valid cases that developers, town governments and people in the position to sell or rent property ought to take into account.

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