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Sustainable, affordable, climate resilient housing is the goal for a new Cape Cod collaborative

Liz Lerner

Communities across Cape Cod will soon welcome college students from around the country to develop plans for affordable, sustainable, and climate resilient housing.

The group of nine “All-Stars” were recruited by the recently launched Massachusetts Housing and Climate Innovation Center (HCIC), which is an outgrowth of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative's work with the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and others.

It’s not yet clear exactly what the students will work on, but each will be paired with local organizations and towns to do things like develop a plan for a tiny home community, or figure out which buildings could best be repurposed into affordable housing units.

“We're in an environmentally sensitive area, period, end of sentence. We have climate change that's impacting all of us, period, end of sentence. And we have a shortage of housing,” said Peter Karlson, who’s volunteering to support the students. “Therefore, if you put all those things in a big pot and you stir that, there's got to be a solution in here somewhere.”

Karlson said conversations — and solutions — like these are urgently needed to help the region prepare for the more intense and frequent storms and environmental impacts that come with climate change. And they need to be happening not only on the 54th annual Earth Day, but year round.

JT Smolak, interim director of HCIC said the students, who will arrive in June, are coming from schools like Harvard, Boston College, and the University of Kansas with all different backgrounds and specialties.

“We have everything from a master's in real estate, a former traffic engineer, construction management people, environmental sciences people,” he said. “It's a pretty broad survey.” 

So, where will the nine “All Stars” live as seasonal housing runs short this summer? Karlson said they’re still looking for host families to take the students in, much like the model of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Applications to become a host family can be found at Masshcic.org.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.

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