Privatized annual Cape rental site; an additional challenge for those looking for accommodation

Year-round tenants in Cape Town have one less resource to find housing.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has privatized a housing website that for years many non-scientists in the Upper Cape community have relied on to find dozens of year-round affordable listings.

“This website was a kind of underground site that people went to looking for housing when Craigslist and Zillow and Realtors failed simply because there was a lack of inventory,” said Alisa Magnotta, CEO of the Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) on Cape Cod.

The scientific institution cut public access after mounting pressure from staff and students who could not find accommodation themselves.

“The housing needs of the approximately 1,000 WHOI staff and students are a top priority. Recently, we were asked to limit general access to the WHOI Community Housing site to WHOI members and our affiliated scientific institutions in Woods Hole in order to meet housing demands,” a spokesperson said. “We recognize that the large Cape Cod community that may have used this open source information in the past no longer has access to it and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

This change may make it harder for people to find available rentals year-round, Magnotta said, but she doesn’t blame WHOI.

People are frustrated with them for shutting down this website,” she said. “It’s very tempting to be upset about the closure or privatization of the website, but that’s not really the point. It is a symptom of the general housing shortage and poor zoning policy.

In other words, she said, the solution to the housing crisis should not rest with a private institution. But she hopes the loss of the WHOI housing site can be a catalyst for change.

“We have an opportunity to pivot here and use this energy and momentum to change zoning policies and lock arms to allow housing in the right areas where it won’t harm the environment or disrupt the drinking water,” she said. “But that there is enough density that housing can be built so that the people who live here all year round can afford it.”

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