As opposed to HAC:
I’m writing today to thank you for voting against the proposal to provide solar panels and other materials to the Habitat houses on Orchard Road and Quinaquisset Avenue.
I was not happy with the vote at Town Meeting to allocate additional funds to that project. $100,000 in CPC funds for three families makes no sense to me.
For months, I’ve been asking public officials and Habitat of Cape Cod leaders to explain the rationale for directing affordable housing public funds to private home ownership that benefits so few people.
No one yet has given a logical, objective answer.
“Diversity” is often offered as a reason for affordable housing. I live in a mixed race neighborhood of single family homes, Dixon Drive in Mashpee, so I’m guessing that these advocates are talking about something other than ethnic background when they push “diversity” as a goal: but what? No one’s been able to define this.
I understand the need to provide housing assistance to people filling important but lower-paying jobs; for example, Certified Nursing Assistant. I would much prefer to see a program that provides low- or no-interest loans to workers in these fields, and not outright gifts, as Habitat provides.
Habitat is secretive about the criteria they use, so I’m not sure who is lucky enough to be chosen and who is not. I would like to see contribution to the whole community through civic volunteer work, for example, as another criterion for awarding these gifts. As an aside, I would not consider any activity relating to a particular religion or ethnic group as qualifying.
Habitat has no methodology for tracking the future income of people who have received a gift of a home at 25% of full market value. In other words, a Habitat homeowner could become a millionaire, yet remain in a home that has been subsidized by public funds.
In addition, there’s no time limit on ownership. A Habitat homeowner can remain in their subsidized house for their entire lifetime. Requiring that subsidized private homes be turned over to future low income residents makes marginal sense to me. Allowing someone to live there for decades whether or not they continue to qualify does not.
Finally, as you know, Habitat homeowners pay greatly reduced property taxes, about 1/4 of the tax burden that is expected of the rest of us, including people like my husband and me who are elderly but who don’t meet the stringent and in my view, unrealistic, income and asset requirements of existing tax abatement programs.
These homeowners receive the same services we do – more if they have kids in school – but they pay 1/4 of the property taxes that we pay, for the lifetime of their occupancy in that subsidized home. The fact that they have to sell at the original assessed value is meaningless from a financial standpoint. By my calculations, property values would need to appreciate at least 7% a year to provide an equivalent benefit to a private homeowner. In contrast, according to the real estate website Zillow, Mashpee home values increased by only 5.2% over the past year. Zillow predicts they will rise by only 2.7% next year.
Off Cape, Habitat for Humanity has programs similar to HAC’s, in which funds and volunteers are used to rehab existing housing for low-income and disabled people. I’ve asked the local Habitat leadership about this but they reject this, claiming that this type of resource allocation wouldn’t be helpful to “families”, which they believe are being underserved. This strikes me as particularly ironic: I wonder how they’ve managed to ignore the fact that the public schools, which exist exclusively for the benefit of families, account for half or more of any given town’s municipal budget.
I support affordable housing for the elderly, disabled, veterans and workers in low-paying but critical jobs as a matter of social justice. On the other hand, I don’t support the spending of public funds for vague purposes that don’t provide direct benefit to the Town as a whole.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this message, I’ve asked these and other questions of affordable housing “experts” but have not received answers that make sense to me. I would love an opportunity to discuss these concerns with you and any/all of your colleagues, in the hope that you will see merit in my ideas and that my point of view might even influence future decision making concerning affordable housing.