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This is the 11th in a series of articles assembled by the Falmouth Affordable Housing Committee to promote conversation about the housing crisis in our community.

It is becoming more and more challenging for year-round residents to find housing they can afford in Falmouth and in the region generally. This shortage of housing poses a threat to local businesses and to the very fabric of our community. Teachers, healthcare workers, town employees, childcare providers, retail workers, landscapers, hairdressers and barbers, cooks, waitstaff—where will they live? We need them here, but regardless of one’s occupation, everyone deserves the opportunity to live here.

In January 2021, I began leading a working group of the affordable housing committee to find additional revenue sources for the Falmouth Affordable Housing Fund. The group was diverse in experience and personal connection to affordable housing in Falmouth. Our interest, experiences, and drive to research this topic culminated in a report submitted to the select board in August 2021 that was unlike any presented before. In this report we detailed multiple new revenue sources for the Falmouth Affordable Housing Fund, and we proposed articles for Town Meeting warrants over the next few years to see these funds raised and appropriated. The fruits of our labor are seen in Articles 14, 15 and 16 on the November Town Meeting warrant. The articles seek to address the shortage of workforce housing in town by increasing the amount of money that will go into the Falmouth Affordable Housing Fund. These three articles are supported unanimously by the Falmouth Select Board.

Article 14 proposes a one-time transfer of $4 million of certified free cash to the fund. At the current rate at which construction is subsidized, this money will help to create 40 to 60 new deed-restricted houses and rental apartments. This is a great step forward in addressing our housing shortage. However, Falmouth is currently more than 400 units short of the state target that 10 percent of year-round residences in every town should be affordable.

Article 15 proposes that Falmouth’s local room tax on hotel/motel/short-term rental units be increased from the current 5 percent to the state maximum of 6 percent. The select board will determine how much of this money will be designated to the Falmouth Affordable Housing Fund, and a Town Meeting vote will be required each year to appropriate these revenues to the fund. This is one of two new, recurring revenue sources that the select board is proposing at November Town Meeting on the recommendation of the affordable housing committee.

Article 16 proposes that a state-allowed community impact fee of 3 percent be applied to short-term rentals ONLY for those operators who have more than one short-term rental property in Falmouth. The new fee will NOT be imposed on those who rent just one unit on a short-term basis. The select board supports designating all the funds generated by this new fee to the affordable housing fund. As with Article 15, a Town Meeting vote will be required each year to appropriate these revenues to the fund.

The select board recognizes that it will take a sustained investment over many years to address Falmouth’s housing crisis in a meaningful way. The most desirable affordable housing developments—those in which more than 25 percent of the units are affordable—require town funding. As such, it is essential to maintain a balance of uncommitted funds for potential future projects so that nonprofit and for-profit developers have an incentive to initiate the multiyear process needed to plan, fund, permit and construct new affordable housing. Based on recent experience, Falmouth can expect to leverage $3 to $4 in state and/or federal money for every $1 of town funds that are expended.

These three articles are a good deal for Falmouth, and I urge all residents to support them, to enhance the place that we call home.

(Ms. Scott Price is a member of the Falmouth Select Board.)

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