Caught in the Vineyard shuffle with nowhere to call home

Caught in the Vineyard shuffle with nowhere to call home

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On Saturday, a group of Islanders met to discuss the increasing lack of summer housing options.

A group of Islanders met Saturday to discuss the lack of year-round rentals. — Photo by Jason Claypool

In the Oak Bluffs library meeting room Saturday, more than a dozen Island residents met to discuss their frustrating search for summer housing. The seasonal shift from off-season to summer housing, a phenomenon more commonly known as the Vineyard shuffle, is not new, but it has become increasingly difficult according to some of those in the room.

Meeting organizers Jayson Claypool and Mellisa Zaccaria said they recently had to make a housing choice every day. They decided where they would park their truck for a night’s sleep.

Stonemason Jeremiah Miller said he did not expect to be scrambling this summer to house his family until their long-term rental unexpectedly became short-term. He must find housing for his wife and two children by July 1.

Lauri Bradway has decades of community service on her 27-year Island resumé but she does not have a home today.

Also searching for housing is Elizabeth Toomey, who served on an Island task force that created the model for the Island Housing Trust, a nonprofit housing organization that is on the frontlines of the effort to create affordable housing.

They were among 17 people gathered in the library meeting room last Saturday afternoon. “This is not an affordability problem,” meeting coordinator Mellisa Zaccaria said. “This is a housing availability problem.” The meeting evolved from a social media campaign Ms. Zaccaria originated in an attempt to find housing for her and her partner, Mr. Claypool. She said the response from people in a similar predicament led her to plan the gathering.

The shuffle

In an email invitation to housing officials titled “Emergency housing solutions meeting in Oak Bluffs,” Ms. Zaccaria said, “Jayson Claypool and I are a couple in Martha’s Vineyard who are currently unable to obtain housing due to a nefarious seasonal rental craze that I’m sure you are familiar with, The Island Shuffle.

“Jayson owns a successful technology solutions LLC and has two children in which he has joint custody. I am a writer and an artist and have convinced Jayson to step in the spotlight and we have begun filming our story, ‘The Shuffle.’”

Ms. Zaccaria said that she and Mr. Claypool had been without housing since April 25 despite searching for months utilizing Facebook housing groups, both Island newspapers, Craigslist, and word of mouth.

“This is not due to a lack of money, but to a lack of housing opportunities,” she said. “Since we became familiar faces on these forums and many saw our post of our first night sleeping in the car, hundreds of other Islanders have responded and stepped forward and are divulging that they are close to or in a similar predicament.”

She said the MV Housing Rental pages on Facebook had evolved into a forum for discussion and debate between owners and renters. “It’s becoming clear that there is a crisis since the summer rental season is coming to a close mid May, and there are hundreds moving into their cars or simply forced to leave altogether.”

On Saturday, Ms. Zaccaria said that friends had provided temporary quarters. “We’re back to the truck on May 10,” she said.

Rental squeeze

On Saturday, meeting attendees were invited to share their stories and to brainstorm ways in which newcomers and long-term residents can access dependable year-round Island housing.

Several in the audience commented on condition of anonymity, citing a fear of being blackballed as troublemakers by Island property owners. Mr. Claypool said several friends had urged him to remain silent about his housing predicament for the same reason.

Several housing advocates attended the meeting, including David Vigneault, executive director of Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, Ewell Hopkins, the former executive director of the now defunct Island Affordable Housing Fund and a newly elected member of the Oak Bluffs planning board, and Marie Doubleday, a licensed mental health counselor and Oak Bluffs representative on the Island Housing Trust.

Mr. Vigneault said the extreme rental squeeze today had its roots in the economic downturn of 2008. “Houses weren’t selling and a good number of them were converted to rental housing,” he said. “So the rental stock improved by 50 to 60 units for several years. Now the real estate market is back and many of those rental properties are off the market. There is no evil conspiracy going on.”

Mr. Vigneault said that town governments are becoming more sensitive to the issue. “There are a lot of new people in place willing to take action,” he said.

Mr. Hopkins said that the Island’s average weekly wage was 29 percent below the state average and the Island median rent was 17 percent above the state average. The median home price was 54 percent above the state average, he said, quoting from a housing needs assessment completed by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) in June 2013.

Mr. Hopkins said commercial interests are served by protecting the Island’s image as a carefree vacation spot. “Because of tourism, we don’t want to tell the world that things that happen there, also happen here,” he said. Mr. Hopkins added that the Island’s isolation exacerbates the problem. “We don’t have (comprehensive) social services here, so we do the things that we can think to do.”

The Dukes County Regional Housing Authority provides subsidies to landlords intended to persuade them to forego summer rentals in favor of year-round rentals. Ms. Doubleday said communities need to find more landlords willing to take those subsidies.

She also commented on an affordability gap highlighted in a MVC report on Island income and housing costs. Ms. Doubleday expressed frustration with state income markers used to qualify residents for affordable housing opportunities. “Many residents cannot afford affordable housing,” she said. “Their income is not high enough to qualify, and the program cannot help them.” For example, a single renter must show between 40 to 50 percent of the Dukes County average median income of $51,700, or about $22-26,000 to qualify.

A second meeting is planned for May 14 at a site to be determined, Ms. Zaccaria told the Times this week. Updates on the May 12 meeting will be posted at, Ms. Zaccaria said.


  1. If the Island residents really want affordable housing it can be done. Many, many other areas have done this, but if the expectation is that someone who owns a property here is going to forgo making more money to offer a year-round rental it’s unlikely to occur. Making affordable housing available is going to require the town governments, MVC and a developer(s) working together. Part of that has to be strict covenants on resale, rental, and a vigilant HoA.

      1. Korey Kuppersmith did irreparable damage to this island. the land bank has property maybe they can start a campsite. Weather is nice and its just 3 – 4 months of the year.

          1. It should have remained a campground. You dont want to own one then dont buy it.

    1. Why should governments, MVC, developers or home owners have to bear this responsibility. Who came up with this idea that “someone” or “anyone” is entitled to live here or anywhere else that they can’t afford or where there simply is no availability.
      If you show up at a hotel and it’s full, YOU have to look elsewhere…. It is the same with housing.

      1. Did I write entitled? No.
        However, we have as a community have a choice of what type of society and civilization we wish to live in. We now all have a pretty good idea on your thoughts on the matter.

    2. There was a realtor at Saturday’s meeting who mentioned houses that have not been successful as vacation rentals but could do very well as year-round rentals. In this case, a rented year-round rental could generate more money for the owner than an un-rented vacation rental.

      1. I’m sure they don’t account for the massive amount of unreported income the island generates.

    1. Remember what Mark Twain said, paraphrasing Disraeli: “There’s lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

      1. Wages include all renumeration reported by employers. Unreported wages by employers aren’t subject to statistical data, it’s true. I would imagine that wages for ordinary jobs like teaching, nursing, banking, grocery stores, most retail, most restaurant business, and other middle-income positions are reported. I think this is what the argument is – not that statistics can be used to bolster a weak argument, which is what Mark Twain meant.

  2. In my humble opinion which I dont seem to be alone and I hope I am not deleted ====>> First off, Mr. Claypool, said “These are basic human rights — the right to have shelter, the right to feel stable,”…. That is not true and he has been listening to OBAMA to long. You must also know that so many Natives me included (I am over 65) have had to do this until we worked and saved enough money to finally buy or built our house. Claypools statement that “when there are children sleeping in cars, your point is invalid,” — Now that makes me MAD! Who’s choice was it to have those kids? After the first one you didnt learn and had another! PLUS, when landlords punch potential renters names into the `court reports` and see who what applicants forget to put on their applications as might have been done in his case landlords as I have been dont want to take a chance!
    How can they blame their landlord because their landlord wanted to move his “mother” into their former apartment, terminating their lease. PLEASE!
    Believe me, No one owes them or others a thing, just look how america treats it veterans and you still think you have a right to complain?

    1. He didn’t “blame” his landlord. He just stated that it happened unexpectedly putting him in a position he didn’t foresee happening. Situations change. People start families then lose a job etc. Unforeseen things. Be a bit more understanding maybe?

      1. True, things do change and often very unexpectedly.
        That does not in anyway mean that this or any other community must provide.
        There are many places in this great land of ours where housing is affordable and available.

          1. We live in a big country. I’m sorry, but I find no reason for any community to provide housing for the soul reason that someone wants to live there.

          2. The simple solution is to change the eviction laws. In Nevada, A tenant that does not pay rent can be served a 5 days to pay notice. On the 6th no-pay day the sheriff will show up and meet the locksmith. Thus there are “no deposit, first month free with 1 year lease” offers all over town. That is one solution to low income housing. (And there are tons of city jobs in the dining and casino industry.)

          3. Actually Nevada has suffered an economic crash. Not sure if this makes sense to you, but when an economy crashes it is not likely people have play money with which to gamble. The housing market in Nevada is one of the worse in the country today. It used to be boomtown!

          4. The entire country experienced the crash. . However, first hand, I bought a Nevada MLS triplex for 70k five years ago when the sky was falling. After minor painting renovations it rented for $1500. , then 1750, now it is over 2000. a month long term. Other similar properties are now selling for 150- 200k. The reason it is so successful? When the bad tenant rents and then does damage, or fails to pay, the sheriff shows up upon a 5 day notice and removes the pest BEFORE its too late.
            However, I have never had to do an eviction like that because the tenants are also aware, and therefor always pay their rent on time and respect the property. So, don’t believe what the news media tells you. There is way more to Nevada then just casinos, although they do create millions of jobs. The unemployment rate is artificially high because the non-working CA fraudulent SSI crowd likes to live there with the more affordable rents.

          5. It didn’t seem to me that the people in this article are asking for a “handout.” They are asking for affordable housing.

    2. Good for you for all that you said! You are correct, they are not owed housing by anyone!
      And, to sleep in a car with children rather than put on your big boy pants and go live where you can afford to live and where housing is available, is disgraceful if not neglectful!
      This entitlement attitude that our current administration supports and encourages must stop!
      Take your family to live where YOU provide for them, not the community or the Government.

      1. Agree. I see no reason why people working for the sort of low wages to make life comfortable for everyone else should expect those people to care a wit for their well-being. Force the workers to move away, make the cost of services to go up. Good for you all. Sarcasm off.

    3. Did anyone notice that as the steady stream of illegal aliens began to arrive on the Vineyard the supply of affordable rentals began to evaporate? The graphs would support that conclusion.

      1. Actually, those illegal aliens are now returning home because the economy in their so-called third world country is expanding much faster than ours. But then again, I guess they feel “entitled” to live.

  3. This is a tough issue to bring up, but I there are people with potentially rentable units who are opting to leave them empty because of the horrible behavior of tenants trashing the place and causing headaches. Unfortunately good people are guilty by association. If once-bitten landlords or people like myself with convertible units felt secure, there would be a flood of new housing. Such a shame so many tenants have poisoned the well.

    1. You’re right. How can we turn that around and get worthy, stable, responsible tenants back in our convertible units?

    2. People have the right to choose not to rent property that they own. Regardless of the reason.

      1. The question was how can we turn that around. Everyone knows an owner has a right not to rent for whatever reason. So Straight Shooter, what would it take? A list of references? A security deposit?

      2. Yes, I’m saying the same thing – they do have the right not to rent. You do, I do, all homeowners do. The idea you suggested was to provide security for landlords and people like yourself with convertible units. I’m asking how that security can be provided.

    3. I think a group of people don’t understand why some renters, not saying these in the story, can’t afford rental housing, can’t find rental housing but they all have dogs, sometimes more than 2 or 3 dogs. If it was me and I could not afford a place to live, I certainly wouldn’t have a dog I can’t house (or keeping me from getting housing) and certainly wouldn’t have a dog I couldnt feed.

  4. I just think there but for the grace of God go I. If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to buy a house in the early 90’s I would never be able to own here. I would be part of the island shuffle. I truly believe that affordable housing can work but not how we are going about it. Affordable housing should be houses and apartments that are rented not owned. Rented affordably so the inhabitants can save up their money and eventually buy something in the place they call home.

    1. Affordable and available maybe today, but considering the growth of the Island in the last 20 years, with no reason to believe it will be any less next year or the year after, means what you provide will never be enough.
      We live in a very finite situation. Not just with available land, but with water also being eyed as a near future problem.
      Also, density comes with its own problems. The social problems and health problems caused by density, will change the reasons you chose to live here.
      We also have some responsibility to provide habitat to the creatures of nature who have made their home here for hundreds of years.
      Sooner or later, Enough has to be Enough dictated by necessity not by what someone wants.

    1. I lived in a tent one summer and they could not understand I expected hot water for a shower before I went to work. Banks are not giving loans that easily to new home owners. Demeaning well intended parents shows a lack of character. What ever happened to the new units at Five Corners ?

    2. Then rent out part of it to other people at affordable rates once you get that house.

  5. If no housing, go elsewhere. Why are you here if you can’t afford to stay? I would love to live in Monaco but can’t afford it.

  6. I am a 5th generation islander, and after my divorce I was forced to sell my home and leave the island because of this problem. While winter rentals are affordable, year round rentals aren’t and year round rentals are harder to find. I was very sad to have left. My children were not able to grow up with other family members. That’s the sad reality of living there.

    1. Well bless you Melanie Bassett Richardson.
      I’m sure it was very difficult for you.
      But, you did what was right and did not subject your children to living in a car!

    2. It’s sad to have to leave, but you have enough sense not to have your children living in a car.

      1. No, I would never live in a car! I am happy where I am at with my life. I own my own home, and all my kids are grown. I’ll be able to rent a summer home at some point and visit like the tourists do! I’m looking forward to it :)

  7. All island towns have been fighting the development of apartment complexes for more than 15 years, with the typical “not in my backyard” attitude. Yet apartments are the clear favorite for singles, families, and couples looking for their first home away from their parents. So why has the Vineyard been denying the obvious for so many years? You reap what you sow.

    1. Because, things like NOT having apartment complexes is part of what makes someone choose to live here, and has for many, many years.

  8. What is needed is SRO housing just like the dormitories the Harborside had for their summer employees. I was lucky, the girls dorm was almost in my back yard. (The building is still there but the boy’s dorm is long gone.)

  9. Seems these folks who were looking for some kind of special sympathy but got absolutely none on their web site and this message now appears there. — Mellisa HoneyBee changed the privacy of the group The Shuffle Documentary from Open to Closed. –

    Now everybody knows exactly who they are and are aware of their Obama Entitlement Kool-Aid drinking following. Yep the ones who voted Twice for the Fundamental Change that we now have but because they were just Sheeples they are now crying, wining and seeking relief!, I say “Fuhgeddaboudit” and live what you worked so hard and used your votes for!

  10. If there’s not an “affordability” issue, then why aren’t they buying a house? Rates are at their lowest, and they’d be paying the same amount for a mortgage as the exorbitant summer rates, maybe even less.
    On a side note, I did the Vineyard Shuffle for 7 years… then moved off island. I still work here, and take the boat to work 5 days a week. If your children are living in a car… shame on you. Do what it takes to move to a place you can afford to live, because despite sayings its not an affordability issue, it clearly is. That’s what I did. Trust me, it sucks having a 1 1/2 hour commute to work each way, which is what I have with drive/boat time. But you do what you have to do to get by.

  11. I’m impressed at the passion and interest from everyone on this. I always hope those in town government read and allow these comments to help form their opinions and take action to help others achieve mutual solutions for all.
    So…..why must the builder of a new home be mandated to wait 5 years before having the ability to add a guest house on the property?
    Wouldn’t this help in what appears to be a serious problem within the Community?

  12. Unfortunately the toxic blend of shady tenants and anti-landlord eviction laws makes renting a hassle many potential landlords would rather skip.

  13. When it comes to welfare, including community subsidized housing, there is confusion regarding the distinction between “needs” and “desires”.
    Welfare, when properly implemented exclusively addresses the former and not the latter.
    But, more importantly, WHO gets to decide?
    Who gets to determine what is “necessary” and for whom, and how much of “someone else’s” shall be taken in order to give it to someone who is deemed more needy or deserving?
    How do you determine what is “necessary?” When does it stop?
    How many people on welfare, and unable to pay for a home have cell phones, cable TV, computers, two cars to a family, and often fairly new ones, take vacations, buy their kids all name brand items,have big stereo systems, buy cigarettes and alcohol?
    It appears that a strong serving of “survival of the fittest” might be long overdue.

    1. seriously? you know people on welfare with two cars? That must be corporate welfare of which you speak. They not only have two cars or more but jets (which get massive tax breaks). So yes, I suppose there are people on welfare with two cars. And many of them own summer homes here.

  14. Just for the record, obviously some of you people didnt actually read the article and comprehend the information, Claypool’s kid’s do not live in a car. He has joint custody and they have been with their mom off island happy and warm. Also, if you join the shuffle doc group (which anyone can), you would see their note apologizing for making the
    public forum closed to people that havent joined, you will see that they were protecting the members because some of the residents are applying for rentals or are in rental agreements that might be in jeapardy if their opinions where public. This action was requested by a number of group members… not a conspiracy to hide info. Some of you here that are chastizing the group are actually members!!! Did you join to spread hate? Makes me laugh.

    1. Just for the record, the article does not explain where Claypool’s kids are, or how you and he came to be here, or why anyone should give a tick’s behind about the lot of you.

      Claypool elected to share that information on your 15-Minutes-of-Famebook page. He made choices. To get married, to have kids, to get divorced, to move to a seasonal resort island with an extremely limited supply of housing, to have a girlfriend–these are all personal choices with predictable consequences.

      You just walked into a convenience store and they’re out of bread. OMG, how can they be out of bread! Everyone needs bread! Bread is a human right!

      You don’t know where the bread in this particular store comes from, when it is usually delivered, what market forces caused the bread to be sold out at the time you walked in, and you don’t care. You need bread, you want bread, the store is out of bread, and therefore it IS A CRISIS!

      Lucky for you there is giant supermarket a short ferry ride away.


  15. The lack of compassion, anger and in some cases hatred reflected in these comments are astonishing to me. Destroy the middle class and soon our “service” economy will crash. Most middle/working class people are just a moment away from falling to the bottom caused by the whims of those they serve. And yes, shelter is a basic human right for without shelter there are no humans. They die from exposure. Poverty kills. And despite one’s anger or hatred, one might very well wake up in that position through no fault of their own. So perhaps we can address the problem instead of saying “it’s not my problem. I’m better than that!” Tomorrow it may very well become your problem and I guarantee you that feeling superior won’t be the first feeling that comes to your mind if that, indeed, happens. And by the way, I don’t think year-round renters are any more likely to trash their place of residence than summer renters. Both happens. In fact, just reasonably speaking, year-round renters are more likely to be more responsible than summer renters because they have a lot more to lose.

    1. You should all keep repeating “shelter is a human right, housing is a human right.”

      If you say it just the right number of times, a happy magic genie appears to make it true.

      “Tomorrow it may very well become your problem” doesn’t work on people whose problem it WAS, and who FIXED IT without going on Facebook or Oprah.

      I do not give a Murdick’s fudge about the predicament of Mr. Cable Guy OUI Escape Artist and his paramour Ms. Makeup Artist Community Organizer.

  16. I think my question is this group doing in order to work towards their goal of home ownership? You need good credit, good employment, and a large amount of savings in order to get a home. If you can’t do any one of those things you need to seriously reevaluate.

  17. The most optimistic people about being a landlord tend to be those who’ve never been one and can theorize/fantasize about virtuous tenants. Some exist, but the odds are that in time they will run into the trashers and the non-payers and will lose money and peace of mind over it. This is not hatred, just weary observation of human nature.

  18. Why move to a place where you can’t afford to live, and then expect to be provided with affordable housing.
    Should we overbuild and crowd the island with apartment houses and condos. Will this make the island more beautiful, I don’t see how. It will increase the demand for services and result in higher taxes. No thanks

    1. You are correct.
      It will also change us to “just another place” no longer special.
      Tourism will suffer, big money people will leave, jobs will be lost,economy will be broken and we will live in a low income, low housing,less than mediocre place where density coupled with poverty will create all that comes with those circumstances.
      No thanks for me too

  19. I must be really bad. I feel like Jessie on Breaking Bad. I went to this meeting and found very attractive looking women. I’ve had several sleeping on my couch. Jessie went to Narcotic Anonymous and dealt ice. These group meeting are great for picking up women.

  20. There doesn’t seem to be any suggestions or viable options for people on this thread looking for affordable or year round housing. Regardless of the collective or individual situations, It appears the landlords & landowners are not going to help you. So instead of appealing to their benevolence, perhaps you should truly get organized – meaning (if money truly is not an issue) pool your money, put a deposit down on land/house as “tenants in common” or as a company/business, create a long term year round hostel or just rent out the numerous bedrooms to other seekers. You can create a return on your investment while paying down the mortgage. Seek the advice of a real estate attorney to help provide the individual contributors investment, etc. You are not the first people to encounter these issues. Either practice patience & persistence or create your own solution.