Potential tenants and property owners can apply for Provincetown’s “Lease to Locals” pilot on the program website.

In an effort to fill gaps in affordable rental housing availability while the town works on renovation and new construction projects to create permanent long-term options, Provincetown launched a “Lease to Locals” pilot program in partnership with Placemate on April 1.

Town officials approached Placemate last year after seeing some of the programs they were running on the West Coast that they thought could help fill an immediate need for housing security in the community. Each community can design the program to best fit its needs.

“We really see it as a bridge to more permanent affordable housing for folks in our community that are housing insecure now,” Town Manager Alex Morse said. “So it was an immediate way to increase inventory of year-round rentals while we are constructing new permanent and affordable rental units.”

The program provides subsidies of up to $20,000, based on the size of the unit and number of tenants, to landlords and property owners who rent long-term for the first time, aiming to bring mostly vacated or previously short-term-only rentals to the long-term market. To be included in the program, properties must not have been previously rented long-term.

“The program is really targeting conversions of short-term rentals into year-round rentals, or the activation of underutilized space that hasn’t been rented at all,” Morse said. “So really, every unit and every bedroom matters in this program.”

The program initially required that potential renters be employed on the outer Cape, but that requirement was changed to accommodate artists, the self-employed and remote workers.

The program is funded with $348,500 from the town’s housing fund, which in turn is funded by 30% of the town’s annual local-option rooms tax revenue, from a combination of traditional hotels and short-term rentals.

“Funding is also a challenge for communities,” Morse said. “For other communities, [they can] look at their rental revenues, their room tax revenues, and see if they could dedicate a portion of those to housing programs like a lease-to-locals program.”

Property owners who rent year-round are also eligible for a 35% property tax exemption that year-round residents receive.

Since the April 1 launch, several dozen residents have created tenant profiles on the program website, and about 15 people have been housed in year-round rentals, Morse said. The town has heard from at least 25 property owners who are interested in taking part.

Morse noted that many housing insecure residents do what he called the “P-Town shuffle,” moving between winter and summer rentals, so even having secure housing for one full year, but hopefully more, gives renters time to plan accordingly and gives the town time to finish permanent housing projects.

“For us, this isn’t going to be the panacea or cure-all, but it’s a multi-pronged approach to address housing availability and housing insecurity,” Morse said. “It’s just one additional tool or lever that we have to address the needs of our community.”

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