Regional Leaders to Discuss Covid Impact on Cape Cod in Live, Virtual Event

Regional leaders in housing, employment, real estate, and business will come together to discuss the State of Cape Cod and the impacts the pandemic has had on all sectors of the local economy.

Dubbed “Cape Cod in the Time of Covid,” the virtual summit will be held on Thursday, August 20 at 11 am and stream live on Housing Assistance Corporation’s Facebook page. Moderated by Matt Pitta, Director of Communications at The Davenport Companies, panelists will include Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross; Cape Cod & Islands Association of REALTORS® CEO Ryan Castle; Housing Assistance Corporation CEO Alisa Magnotta and Director of Housing Development & Planning David Quinn; and MassHire Cape & Islands Workforce Board Executive Director Kara Galvin.

Topics to be covered include the current unemployment rate in our region; the job market and obstacles facing local employers; the booming real estate market and what’s driving single-family home prices upward; the state of business and economic projections for the fall and winter; the housing crisis facing Cape Cod; the rental market and challenges facing renters and landlords; what resources are available for people seeking jobs as well as available rental and mortgage assistance; and how residents can get involved in helping address regional issues.

“This has been a summer unlike any that we’ve ever experienced on Cape Cod,” Northcross said. “While visitors are still vacationing here and new opportunities are clearly emerging, businesses are facing challenges that have forced rapid change. We will be seeing long-lasting impacts that will dramatically shift the look, feel, and substance of how businesses and nonprofits operate in our region for years to come.”

Cape Cod has entered an unprecedented real estate market as demand is higher than eve, yet supply continues to shrink, exacerbating previous concerns about housing affordability and availability. In July, the median sales price was $463,500 for a single-family home in Barnstable County, up from $429,450 in July 2019.

“Year-rounders were already facing stiff competition from second homebuyers, but the response to the pandemic has brought on even more challenges and a new one – competition for a shrinking availability of housing to buy against others who are seeking to work remotely here,” Castle said. “This is a problem because these remote workers are bringing salaries from areas that have a higher cost of living and competing against year-round Cape Codders who have traditionally lower incomes. We have to get serious about adding inventory and the surest way to do that is through housing production.”

At Housing Assistance, the agency has witnessed record highs for the number of calls from households seeking financial assistance due to the pandemic. From mid-March to the end of June, it has experienced a 325% increase in foreclosure prevention requests and a 413% increase in requests for help with past-due rent, in comparison to the same time frame last year.

“With the extra $600 per week provided through Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation ending, we are seeing another spike in inquiries,” Magnotta said. “As the regional provider for public and private rental assistance for every town on Cape Cod as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, we have the staff, expertise and financial resources available to offer help to anyone struggling to pay their rent or mortgage at this time.”
The pandemic is also impacting landlords. Housing Assistance recently conducted a survey that showed roughly 25% of them have tenants who are behind on rent. “We may see landlords who aren’t getting rent payments due to COVID decide to sell their property which would present a whole host of challenges for a region that already has a several lack of rentals,” Magnotta said.

Another troubling trend for Cape Cod and the Islands is that it continues to be among the highest regions in the state for unemployment. “This is particularly disturbing because we are such a seasonal economy and many of our businesses and workers depend on the summer months to earn the bulk of their income,” said Galvin. “The good news is there are companies actively seeking help and opportunities for people to return to work and move off of unemployment.”

Panelists will identify current programs available to assist residents and business owners during this time while also offering ways for the public to get involved in addressing the issues facing our region.

Following the individual presentations, the press will be invited to field questions to the panelists.