Create more 1-2 bedroom housing on Cape Cod

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Cape Cod towns need to pass better accessory dwelling bylaws to make it easier for seniors to age-in-place and young people to stay here.

The Cape does not have enough year-round rental housing, nor enough choice in the type of housing available. Modifying towns' Accessory Dwelling Unit by-laws will increase the supply of available units without developing more land or ruining the character of our community. Members of the workforce on Cape Cod will be more likely to stay on the Cape if there are more attainable options for them to rent. 

At the same time, baby boomers are increasingly trying to age-in-place. Staying in the homes they’ve lived in for decades can be made easier by the addition of an ADU for them to house a CNA or relative to care for them, or just to rent to a young person who can keep an eye on them and supplement their retirement income.

The Problem: The Cape has a drastic shortage of 1-2 bedroom units – which is the type of housing unmarried young professionals, fishermen, and other members of the workforce – the backbone of our economy - want and need in order to afford to live here.

Few single people in their late 20s or 30s (or divorced or widowed people in their 50s and 60s) wish to live in a 3-4 bedroom house with roommates or shuffle from a winter rental to an unaffordable summer rental. These members of the workforce can afford to pay market prices for such units – if there were more of them. Unfortunately, there are very few and the existing bylaws aren't producing them.

The Solution: A model by-law supported by the Smarter Cape Partnership would make it easier for homeowners to rent out accessory units on their property, for example a carriage house, an in-law apartment or an above-garage apartment.  It would limit and remove some current zoning restrictions on accessory units to encourage the creation of more year-round rentals on Cape Cod.  The by-law would maintain existing regulations that are necessary to protect community character and water quality. 

Accessory units are great option because they create affordability in two categories – increasing attainable rental options and creating an income stream to make a home more affordable for owners. We all know rental opportunities are scarce due to the Cape’s desirability and attractiveness as a tourist destination. Allowing existing homeowners to create more rental opportunities without adding more bedrooms or bathrooms than allowed by wastewater and/or zoning regulations strikes a great balance of more units, while keeping the charm and character of Cape Cod intact.

The crux of an accessory dwelling bylaw lies in the fact all existing land use and wastewater regulations will have to be met. The proposed bylaw just allows the creation of more attainable, yet compact units to help offset the shortage of available and affordable units.

Who else benefits?

  • More Cape Cod residents will be able to afford to stay on the Cape and buy a home here if they can rent out a carriage house or garage apartment to help them pay for their mortgage.
  • Making it easier to rent out accessory units will provide more reasonably-priced rental units for people who might otherwise have difficulty finding housing on the Cape.
  • By making it easier for homeowners to rent out their carriage house or garage apartments, towns on the Cape can increase the number of year-round rentals without letting developers ruin the character of the community with more development and big apartment buildings.
  • Many seniors on Cape Cod will have an additional, sustainable source of income - and potentially a younger person to help them out around the house.

By-law Details:

  • The accessory units would have to comply with the septic and wastewater requirements for the town.
  • The accessory unit could not be sold separately from the primary residence.
  • All accessory units would have a separate entrance, a bathroom, and a kitchen.
  • Accessory units couldn't be used for Air B&B or other lodging purposes.
  • No more than one accessory unit could be created per lot.
  • The accessory unit could not have more than two bedrooms or be more than half the size of the primary residence.
  • Accessory units would need to have their own parking spots.

How can I help?

Sign the petition! We'll let you know when the issue is coming up in your town so you can have a say with decision-makers. You can also volunteer to help.

Who else is supporting the bylaw?

The Smarter Cape Partners, who are the leading business, professional, educational and economic umbrella organizations on Cape Cod. These groups recognize we have a Cape-wide housing problem and creating in-law apartments is just one tool we can use to ensure people who grew up here can afford to stay here. They are comprised of:

  • CCYP (Cape Cod Young Professionals)
  • Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce
  • Cape Cod Technology Council
  • Cape Cod Community College
  • Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS
  • Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod
  • Open Cape

The bylaw has also been endorsed by the Cape Cod Times and Cape Cod Chronicle Editorial Boards.



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