Nine win Edgartown/American dream in housing lottery
When the moment came to announce the winners of nine affordable homes in Edgartown's Jenney Lane project, Karen Altieri couldn't look.
She was also concerned that with all the tension and commotion surrounding the lottery that she wouldn't be able to hear if her name was announced. So she worked out a signal with her young son, Kyle.
She sat with her head down, one hand with a death grip on various good luck charms and religious icons, and the other clutching Kyle's hand so tightly that her knuckles were white. Kyle was supposed to squeeze her hand once if they got the home, twice if they didn't. But when her name came out of the box, Kyle was so excited he just started squeezing his mom's hand over and over again as quickly as he could. Among shouts, hugs, and applause, tears flowed - and the tears weren't restricted to Karen and Kyle Altieri.
"The American dream has come true," said Ms. Altieri, of Edgartown. "I've just been praying. It was so hard. The stress of it was unbelievable."
Similar scenes played out nine times as families were awarded the right to buy new energy-efficient homes, at prices they could afford, in a prime location just outside Edgartown's business district.
Photos by Steve Myrick
For Paul Moreau, it was a matter of persistence and positive thinking. He waited through three previous affordable housing lotteries without hearing his name called. This time, his name came out of the box.
"My thought was, my number has got to come up this time," said Mr. Moreau, a paralegal who has lived on the Island for the past 15 years.
Scott Patterson of West Tisbury had a permanent grin on his face, after he was awarded a home on the day he turned 40 years old.
"I was shocked," said Joshua Tucker of Oak Bluffs, who won the right to buy a two-bedroom home. Mr. Tucker's family has a long lineage on the Island, but until now, has never been able to afford a home.
"It goes back seven generations on my mom's side," said Mr. Tucker. "My father is a Wampanoag, so a thousand years or so on that side."
Also winning the housing lottery Monday were Donna Souza of Edgartown, Anita Keegan of Aquinnah, Fiona Finneran of Edgartown, Ezra and Lisa Sherman of Edgartown, and Peter and Jennifer Smyth of Oak Bluffs.
The drawing, held at the Edgartown town hall, took on an unusual air. At times it seemed a combination of a neighborhood meeting, the NFL draft, bingo night, and a housewarming party.
The largest affordable housing lottery ever held on the Island was the culmination of a long qualifying process for the applicants. About 150 people took applications. More than 70 of those families attended a home-buying seminar with information about the costs and legal process. Of those, 26 families were pre-qualified, as required, for a mortgage. The cost of the houses ranged from $160,000 to $330,000. Applicants qualified based on their income, as a percentage of the area median income (AMI) for Dukes County. For 2008, the AMI is set at $78,600 for a family of four. "They try to set the price to give people of different income levels a chance at home ownership," said Terry Keech, administrator for the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA).
Those awarded the right to buy a home this week have incomes ranging from 80 percent to 140 percent of the AMI.
"The 26 people sitting here are ready for this step," said David Vigneault, executive director of DCRHA. "More importantly, their banks think so."
Of the nine homes, three were set aside with preference for people with connections to Edgartown. Those who already live or work in the town, or have children in the school system, were awarded extra tickets for the drawing, giving them a better chance to win. The other six houses offered an equal chance for all who qualified. Three of the houses were awarded without a lottery. In each case, there was only one family that qualified.
Following the drawing, all were invited to a reception at the Jenney Lane project, but it proved nearly impossible to gather the crowd there at first, because everyone wanted to see their new homes.
Joshua Tucker couldn't wait to carry Priscilla, his bride of three years, over the threshold of 5 Jenney Lane. "I think the reality is just setting in," said Mr. Tucker.
For those who shepherded the project through the various permit hurdles and defended a lawsuit by neighbors who contended that the project would lower their property values and create traffic and parking problems, the sense of accomplishment was tempered by a feeling of relief. Housing officials offered high praise for the officials, developers, contractors, and affordable housing agencies that contributed. Also singled out were Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Jenney, who sold some of their property considerably below the market rate. They will live next door to the new homes.
Edgartown affordable housing committee chairman Alan Gowell described the couple's generosity, saying "They said 'build it in my back yard. Build it here. These people will be my neighbors.'"
Pat Manning, executive director of the Island Affordable Housing Fund, offered consolation to those who were not rewarded by the luck of the draw. "For those people who don't get homes, today, don't lose hope," he said. "There are other opportunities. Edgartown is committed to affordable housing."
Mr. Manning noted that there are approximately 20 units of affordable housing in Edgartown, in various stages of permitting or construction.
"It's kind of bittersweet," said John Abrams, president of South Mountain Company, the employee-owned West Tisbury development firm that built the homes. "More people walk away disappointed than get homes, but that's what keeps you going. We'll build more."