FALMOUTH — Debby Wells moved to Cape Cod in 2013 and in the years since she’s learned firsthand that being a renter on the Cape can be difficult.
She’s had three rentals sold from underneath her, but struck housing gold when she was able to secure a three-year lease for a condo in Falmouth.
That goldmine may be running dry now as the Cape’s pre-existing housing crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19.
Wells’ landlord didn’t offer a new lease for the fourth year and she recently learned that he wants to sell the property in the hot real estate market that’s been spurred on by the pandemic.
“With housing prices as good as they are right now, he called me (last week) and said ‘I’m going to sell the condos,” Wells said last week.
Between when the state eviction moratorium ended in October and January more than 150 evictions — mainly for nonpayment of rent — have started working their way through local courtrooms. But landlords raising the rent or deciding not to renew leases is another form of eviction happening across the region.
The effects of COVID-19 are expected to continue to shake the Cape’s housing landscape well after those evictions are processed, causing the current housing shortage and affordability gap to get worse, according to housing advocates.
Wells, an empty nester in her late 50s who moved to the Cape from San Diego, understands her landlord’s motivation and hopes that, if he does find a buyer, they will retain her condo as a rental and keep her on as a tenant. But there’s no guarantee that will happen.
She doesn’t think she’ll have to leave anytime soon but is already making contingency plans, including possibly moving back to her home state of Maryland. Wells just wishes she didn’t have to make a possibly life-altering decision in the middle of a pandemic.
Wells is not alone. Renters across the Cape are facing similar housing insecurity issues.
Matilda Delano knows the struggle to find — and keep — housing on Cape Cod.
She moved into her current rental in Brewster in 2019, where she lives with her husband Jedediah and three children. This summer, the lease expired and the owners decided not to renew it so they could use the house for their own family.
The Delanos say they’ve tried to find a new place to live in the area through Craigslist and Zillow, but have been unable to find anything. They’ve stayed in the home after the lease ended and continue to pay rent, but are now navigating the court system as the landlord tries to take back possession of the home
“I never actually thought this would happen to us, but here we are,” Delano said.
Cape real estate prices jump 16.8%
The available housing stock, including those for sale, is being depleted rapidly as people realize they can get out of cities and work remotely from Cape Cod, said Alisa Magnotta, the CEO of the Housing Assistance Corporation.