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Pandemic Pushing Cape Cod Real Estate Sales, Driving Prices Up

HYANNIS (CBS) - Just a short drive from the mansions of Hyannisport, tucked away in a sleepy neighborhood, are rows of ranch style homes. Few are for sale; the dwellings are modest and mostly affordable – under Cape Cod standards.

"Sixty percent of the units that came out to be sold in the month of July are already under contract," said Truro Senator Julian Cyr. "I really worry. How are we going to sustain this place year-round if working people can't live here?"

Cyr said the pandemic is driving a buying spurt as more people look to find refuge on the Cape and Islands. According to July's Barnstable County report of real estate activity, the volume of real estate sales in July 2020 was up 42.6% from July 2019, pushing the median price of property to $455,000.

"This is a problem that we had before COVID-19, but I worry the pandemic is exacerbating the inequities we have in our community," Cyr said.

Cyr fears limited affordable housing stock can squeeze the working class out of the county, a seasonal community known for employing large numbers of hospitality workers. A recent Cape Cod Commission report found that in Barnstable, the income needed to affordably own a home is $89,189; head east to the Outer Cape and that number almost doubles.

"The gap is widening just in terms of home ownership, in terms of who can afford the median priced house on Cape Cod and who can't," said Wendy Northcross, chief executive officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. "On one hand it's good for the property owners, on the other hand it further endangers our working families who want to remain here raise their kids here but need a house to do that."

That's why Cyr is pushing for housing legislation on Beacon Hill that would prioritize the development of affordable housing and allow seasonal communities to lower the burden of property taxes on year-round rentals and low-income households.

"It's really important that we keep the current rentals that we have, there's been a whole shift especially in Provincetown and Nantucket of converting rentals to condos," Cyr said. "We have to really focus so that working people can still afford to make a life on Cape Cod."

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