Finding Vineyard homes for everyone
Not to be missed at the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival is Ken Wentworth's and Liz Witham's 45-minute documentary, "A Home for Us All." The only locally made entry this year, it will be shown Saturday, March 15, at 11 am followed by a discussion with the filmmakers.
The film examines the Island's need for affordable housing and how it is being addressed. Contrary to the belief that affordable housing provides free homes to the unemployed or builds housing ghettos, the Island's affordable housing proponents want people who live and work here to be able to own homes despite the Island's high prices.
The project began as a 45-part series of shorts produced by Ms. Witham's and Mr. Wentworth's Film-Truth Productions for the Island Affordable Housing Fund. Used last year in a telethon, it helped raise more than $500,000 for the housing fund.
The couple then decided to take the most informative and affecting segments and turn them into a full-fledged documentary - something that can apply to any community where natives and year-round residents have a hard time finding or holding onto permanent homes.
"We wanted to go the extra mile," Ms. Witham says. As an Island native, she has watched firsthand the "Island shuffle," which forces those who can't afford high summer rents to move temporarily into less expensive digs.
"I don't think it's right that people who grow up here or live here year-round can't find a place to live," says Mr. Wentworth. He points out that most of the kids who go to Martha's Vineyard Regional High School will probably not be able to stay and raise a family.
On Nantucket, workers who cannot afford to live on that island are flown in and out as needed. Mr. Wentworth and Ms. Witham suggest that far more important than developing worker housing is preserving the character of the community and the culture that has made Martha's Vineyard such a desirable place to live and vacation.
Otherwise, who gets to live here is determined by who has the most money. Mr. Wentworth points out that while a lot has been done on the Island to preserve land through conservation, it has made housing more expensive.
"You have to open your eyes to the effect the housing squeeze is having," Mr. Wentworth says. "It happens in such small increments that even though we know it's happening, we don't do anything about it. There's a saying that if you drop a frog in boiling water, it'll jump out. But if you put it in water and gradually turn the heat up, it'll die."
Freelance writer Brooks Robards is a regular contributor to The Times.