Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Notes on Housing: Wellfleet Holds a Song Contest

If you go walking at Mayo Beach, you may notice something unusual. This original oyster shack was moved to its current location in November. The shack, circa 1934, had spent a number of years in someone’s yard, above Gull Pond, and now has become the property of the Wellfleet Historical Commission. What strikes me about the building is its scale: itsy-bitsy. If a shellfisherman shucked oysters in an oyster shack today, no doubt the structure would be more grandiose. Even when Cape Codders build sheds in the 21st century, structures to match houses are the rule. Despite the recession and the cost of heating large houses, everyone seems to want their dwelling super-sized these days. Tonight the Planning Board will hold a meeting to discuss scale, as it applies to future construction. I'll be interested to hear the conclusions.

Remember the house being built in our neighborhood, the one with the amazing view? This house looks enormous from the Wicked Oyster. Actually, there will be two buildings, but the impression, from below, is of monstrous size. And, scale? Since the owners cleared a portion of the hillside, the structure will be as in-your-face as the lobster at Mac’s Shack, created as a promotional gimmick.

Examine this darling old home on Main Street. What's different? I should specify that I do not know the owners of either house, the big one, or the smaller one. It's not clear how many bedrooms the Main Street house contains, but it's fairly large for the period of construction. Large, yet contained. To me, it doesn't scream, "Look at me! How well I have succeeded!" The size was, no doubt, due to numerous children. Now people build big for different reasons.

Our sweet little seaside town remains a place many folks hold dear and dream of for retirement. The influx of retired folks keeps real estate prices high. Young people starting out, be they children of natives or new arrivals in search of opportunity, face the same dilemma: a lack of affordable housing. A whopping 72% of the population are non-resident, people who sometimes have bought their property as an investment. Fortunately Wellfleet is also rich in creative souls who actively seek solutions to this problem. (Check out the bumper sticker pasted to this car, seen at the march yesterday. It reads, "Homes, not bombs." The sign's message isn't bad either!)

The Wellfleet Housing Authority and the Wellfleet Local Housing Partnership are organizing a Got-Housing? Song Contest. Submission of a song includes the right for the housing groups to use the winning song in public and/or broadcast presentations. Songs may be submitted on CD, DVD or written with accompanying music. Songs must be original, and one to five minutes in length. Submission deadline? March 15, 2010. To get an entry form, email the Wellfleet Housing Authority at: or call 508-349-2828. Apparently people love contests, so I hope you musicians out in cyberspace will get to work immediately. As Abba might have sung, “Housing, housing, housing…. It’s a rich man’s world.”