How affordable housing measures up


Millions of public and private dollars, thousands of hours of work, and tons of goodwill have gone into the affordable housing efforts on Martha’s Vineyard over the past decade. So how is it working?

An Islandwide housing needs assessment conducted for the Island Affordable Housing Fund in 2001, examined population, wages, development trends, tourism trends, and a host of other factors. The study set goals targeting the demand. It called for creation of 190 below-market and 40 market rate housing units to fill a critical need. The study estimated $13,600,000 in subsidies would be needed to reach that goal. It also called for 237 affordably priced homes. Those would take $14,950,000 in subsidies.

A 2005 update of the needs assessment said “The Island’s residents have made truly remarkable progress toward meeting the goal. In the four years since the original study, 343 affordable homes or apartments were created.”

The study update recommends the Island maintain a rate of creating 30 to 40 units annually of rental housing. It also recommends 40 to 50 new home-ownership opportunities each year. “If the Island wants to preserve any opportunity for even middle-income renters to purchase housing on the Island, if it wants to be able to attract and retain essential service workers, it cannot look to the marketplace to serve that need,” the study reads.

While local housing advocates laud the efforts and individual successes of various housing groups, they concede Island housing groups are not creating home ownership opportunities at nearly the rate recommended in the needs assessment studies. But the Island’s affordable year-round apartment rentals are keeping pace, or exceeding the growth recommended by the needs assessment.

Dukes County Housing Authority executive director David Vigneault estimates from 80 to 100 home-ownership opportunities were created over the past five years by groups such as the Island Housing Trust, Habitat for Humanity, and local town affordable housing committees. That is about 16 to 20 homes per year, less than half the amount recommended by the needs assessment.

Mr. Vigneault estimates about 230 affordable rental units were created in the past five years, including elderly housing, and apartments in the rental assistance program. That works out to about 46 new units annually, more than the 30 to 40 called for in the needs assessment. However, the needs assessment called for creating that many apartments for families earning less than 80 percent of the area median income. The 230 affordable apartments created on the Island house families with a wider range of incomes.