Buoyed by a final vote and resounding support this week in Tisbury for the Martha’s Vineyard housing bank, the coalition behind the plan charts the next steps in a still long process as efforts are underway across the island to meet an immediate need for affordable housing. The proposal to create a housing bank funded by a 2% commission on most real estate transactions over $1 million is now going through a housing bank review board. The role of the committee is to refine the home rule bill that will ultimately need to be passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.
The Coalition to Create Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank this week alerted city boards to the need to each appoint one member to the committee, which will consider amendments to the bill that are consistent with the terms of reference section. approved this spring by voters in the island’s six cities.
Meanwhile, projects are in the works at various stages across the island to create homeownership and rental opportunities for Islanders who meet certain income guidelines. Next to come in line is Kuehn’s Way off State Road in Vineyard Haven. The largest rental project developed to date by the Island Housing Trust, Kuehn’s Way will offer 20 new rental apartments with a total of 40 bedrooms, according to executive director Philippe Jordi. Mr. Jordi has sketched out a rough August timeline to complete construction with the goal of having tenants move out in September or October. IHT recently began accepting applications, with a lottery scheduled for July to award the units.
A development of 40 more units on a seven-acre plot on Meshacket Road in Edgartown is set to start shortly after years of discussion and planning, said Mark Hess, chairman of the Edgartown Affordable Housing Committee. The project provides 36 rental units for people earning 80% of the region’s median income and four homeownership opportunities for people with slightly higher incomes.
Edgartown also recently awarded a three-acre lot by lottery for a residential site in the Quammox West subdivision in Chappaquiddick.
David Vigneault, Executive Director, Dukes County Regional Housing Authority. — Ray Ewing
“There are a lot of things we are trying to do, all the island committees, everyone involved in island housing are really trying to do everything they can with all the resources they can muster,” said Mr. Hess at the Gazette.
In Oak Bluffs, a two-phase project to create up to 60 housing units is planned on city-owned land near the rink. Mark Leonard, chair of the Oak Bluffs Affordable Housing Committee, hopes the first phase of the south end development, which will have 47 units, will be reviewed by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission over the summer. The city is also in the midst of a few smaller projects: approximately four acres of land on County Road will provide affordable housing for up to 10 veterans and the city will convert retail space from the former pharmacy on Circuit Avenue in two apartments. .
“It’s kind of an exciting time here on the island because every town has a project going on. There was so much time that nothing really happened,” Mr Leonard said. “All this takes time and it is not easy. . . you just can’t build buildings quickly.
Chilmark voters approved a 10-unit plan on city-owned land in Peaked Hill Pastures at their annual town hall meeting. The project is still in its infancy because the select committee recently formed a committee to put it in competition.
Aquinnah voters gave the go-ahead to build four affordable apartments on city-owned land behind City Hall. The project is a first for the city because it has not yet developed rental units, said Mike Hebert, chair of the Aquinnah Affordable Housing Committee.
David Vigneault, executive director of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, said there were 342 households on the authority’s waiting list for affordable housing, showing there is still work to be done.
“Housing banking is the future,” he said. “What are we going to do in the meantime?”
The exact date when the housing bank could become a reality remains uncertain. This week, the coalition compiled a list of a dozen steps to take before the bank can start operating.
Once the housing bank review committee agrees on the final language of the legislation, the proposed bill will be sent to Senator Julian Cyr and Rep. Dylan Fernandes for tabling. Any substantial changes to the bill subsequently made must be approved by at least four of the participating cities’ selection boards, acting by a majority vote.
If the bill is passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, it would then return to the island to be approved by voters again in at least four municipal elections.
Pending the establishment of the housing bank, zoning changes could be a way to provide more immediate relief, Mr Jordi said, noting that at the Chilmark town hall voters approved a change to eliminate the minimum one-acre requirement to build houses on site, with restrictions.
Cities could also inspire each other to find ways to provide more affordable housing, Vigneault said. West Tisbury and Vineyard Haven have a Multifamily Housing Bylaw, which gives the city more control over the state’s 40B licensing process. IHT used it to develop Scott’s Grove, which resulted in nine units in West Tisbury.
“One city or the other has one version or the other of something that all six cities could have,” he said.