IHT emphasizes housing crisis at annual brunch and fundraiser

Randi Baird

More than 250 invited guests gathered at the Grey Barn Farm on State Road in Chilmark Sunday morning on a beautiful Vineyard summer day under a huge tent to support the Island Housing Trust (IHT), a nonprofit that creates affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard.

Grey Barn Farm owners Eric Glasgow and Molly Glasgow, sponsors of the event, which included a sumptuous brunch, welcomed the guests and said that finding housing for their summer help was the farm’s biggest problem.

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi told the assembled guests that IHT has developed a multi-faceted approach to creating affordable housing that has produced over 60 affordable homes in its eight years, relying on a model that uses inexpensive long-term land leases, while building affordable energy-efficient homes for sale and for rent. Mr. Jordi emphasized the continuing need for more affordable housing. He said that IHT is now working on 15 units and has set a goal of 100 homes by the end of 2015.

To give people a sense of the housing crisis on the Vineyard, IHT volunteers handed out 200 envelopes that contained fictional housing applications based on real people. The applicants included teachers and health care workers, construction workers and retirees, retail employees and landscapers.

Mr. Jordi said that these 200 would be competing for five available homes, a scale similar to what the 500 families on the IHT waiting list face.

“Why is there such a housing crisis on the Vineyard,” Mr. Jordi asked, ”when there are as many houses as there are people?”

He said that second homes account for 53 percent of all Island homes, and that 25 percent of all homes are rented seasonally for an average of $2,500 a week and only 5 percent of Island housing is multi-family housing. “It’s no wonder that you are not able to find something that you can afford as young person or couple living on a modest income or a senior living on a fixed income,” he said.

He provided examples of people who hold down steady jobs but cannot find affordable housing and asked those in the audience whose housing applications described similar people to stand.

Former IHT board member Victoria Haeselbarth, an Edgartown social worker working with senior citizens, recounted her own story of raising a child on an income not big enough to buy or rent an adequate home until she was given a chance to buy an affordable home.

“I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to stand before you and ask for your support to make a donation to Island Housing Trust,” Ms. Haeselbarth said. “Every homeownership and rental opportunity requires between $100,000 and $200,000 in grant funding. IHT’s goal is to raise $1,000,000 annually in order to increase affordable housing for Island residents.”

She asked people to read over the donation forms that were handed out and pointed out the opportunity available to donors to increase the impact of their donations. She said that not only are donations over $1,000 tax deductible but they would also qualify for the state’s community investment tax credit that would return 50 percent of their donation from the state. “I ask that you give until it feels good,” she said.

Many envelopes were returned. Mr. Jordi told The Times that he would not know how much had been pledged for a week or two.

“We are grateful for the support of over 160 individuals, businesses, foundations, and Island towns this past year,” he said, “and we are proud to acknowledge that over half of our donors are year-round residents.”

He said IHT’s goal is to raise $1 million with the help of the Community Investment Tax Credit program, and to leverage these funds to secure competitive state grants for rental projects.

For more information on IHT, call 508-693-1117.