FOCUS GROUP SUMMARY

#3 – Housing Affordability

The Vision and Values Housing Affordability Focus Group met virtually on September 21, with 22 participants attending the session. Future iQ introduced the format of discussion for the evening, the purpose being to explore the three questions below as they related to the topic of housing affordability.

Participants were randomly assigned to breakout groups of 5-8 and asked to report back to the large group. The following paper synthesizes participant notes and live discussion of these questions; it concludes with some initial insights on the role housing affordability may play in planning for the future of Falmouth.

1. What are the key things we are learning about this topic - from the surveys, background information, future trends, and Discussion Board comments?

  • There is not a homogenous perspective on this issue for Falmouth; the community is quite polarized on the issue of affordability. There is a division in the survey between those who want more affordable housing and those who don’t. 
  • The housing we develop will determine the type of community we create over the next 10 years.
  • We need a range of housing so that our front-line workers including teachers can live here also. Falmouth will become an upper middle-class community if we don’t make changes to current trajectory.
  • We need more rental units in Town.
  • Retaining the unique character of Falmouth involves developing more affordable housing for residents.

2. What are the one or two important potential future-splitting decisions or issues facing Falmouth, related to this topic; and, what are the implications and trade-offs of these different future directions?

 *(Definition of a future-splitting decision or issue: Something that represents a fork in the road, where future outcomes are significantly shaped by the decision or direction)

  • Falmouth is at a real fork in the road: If it continues on the current path, we will become a very upper middle-class community and many people will be driven out of the community. Older residents may not be able to stay here, current low-income residents will be forced out, young professionals will be priced out, and new families will have difficulty purchasing new homes. There is a keen wish by residents to stop this trajectory. New zoning regulations are needed.
  • Future-splitting question: Should we be intervening or laissez-faire? Good quality housing a right.
  • Future-splitting situation: We can stay the course and have a reputation of being an affluent town with good schools, or we can make changes to encourage diversity. The risk of not changing is that we could become an old white person Town.

3. With regards to this focus group topic, where is the future ‘sweet spot’ for Falmouth?

*(Definition of a sweet spot: An optimal point or combination of factors or qualities)

  • The sweet spot would be to provide a range of housing for Falmouth residents. Broad restrictions would be needed to assure good quality of life for all.
  • The sweet spot would be to create more housing types by:
    • Incentivization (density multipliers, TIF districts, credit enhancements)
    • Specifing areas where affordable housing is appropriate
    • Acknowledge there will be growing pains
    • Identify objections to affordable housing and address concerns, especially fear issues on both sides
  • A sweet spot could be for community members to create a Trust for housing built on public-private financing. 

Consultant’s Insights:

  • Housing affordability gets to the social fabric of a community; it defines the type of community you are trying to become.
  • A challenge to this community is to find common ground. It is no fun to govern a polarized community. 
  • New values and approaches to development will emerge as the community changes and investments are made.
  • Falmouth is going to need to deal with many topics at the same time and confront the macro set of changes occurring in the world. This will take fortitude to tackle the serious issues like housing.

Participant quote:

“We are governed in a way by those who show up (and vote).”

MORE INFORMATION​

For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:

David Beurle, CEO
Future iQ
Phone: (612) 757-9190
david@future-iq.com

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