Graduate students study the future of affordable housing on Martha’s Vineyard

Derrill Bazzy, center, shows MIT and Harvard students the details of the property. —Stacey Rupolo

A team of 11 students from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have paired with the Island Housing Trust and Island Food Products to look for innovative ways to create more affordable housing on the Vineyard.

Island Food Products (IFP) is the Vineyard’s local foodservice distributor whose warehouse sits on four acres off Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road in Tisbury. Adam Bresnick, a partner at IFP, told The Times on Friday during a visit to the site that he and his partner, Jon Roberts, teamed up with Island Housing Trust (IHT) and students from Boston to work on an affordable housing design proposal for the IFP property, if the IFP warehouse were to move.

The students’ work is part of an affordable housing development competition sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston (FHLBB), which offers a $10,000 prize to the winning team. The competition pairs teams of graduate students with affordable housing organizations to develop innovative development proposals that address the needs of these organizations.

IHT is a nonprofit that works to find affordable housing solutions on the Island, with more than two dozen houses and apartments in its portfolio. On Friday at IFP, Derrill Bazzy, project manager at IHT, said that working with students is “a perfect opportunity” to look at how various stakeholders could collaborate to create more housing.

Because the students’ work product will be a proposal, it gives IHT and various stakeholders “a chance to think about things in a nonthreatening way,” Mr. Bazzy said.

The collaboration between IFP and IHT is the first of its kind on the Island, where business owners have considered that their property might be a potential site for affordable housing. Mr. Bazzy said that the partnership — if they decided to pursue the project — could create a model that works for other businesses here and perhaps elsewhere in the state.

Mr. Bazzy told The Times in an email that IHT has partnered with several businesses on the fundraising side of things, but hadn’t had the opportunity to collaborate with a business on the project development side. In addition, working with “such a committed group” of graduate students on the proposal allows IHT to explore a range of information and opportunities to find the best way to make the IFP and IHT collaboration successful.

“It’s a very exciting exploration for us,” Mr. Bazzy said in his email.

The property could accommodate about 80 apartments, and the student plan is to investigate what such a structure would look like. In their current design, half of the apartments are two-bedroom apartments, 15 percent are three bedrooms, and the remaining are either one-bedrooms or efficiencies.

A group of five students visited the site Friday to get a perspective of the property, touring the site with Mr. Bresnick and Mr. Bazzy. “It’s about the closest to sort of a real-world affordable housing development experience you can get from a student perspective,” David Tisel, a first-year master’s student in city planning at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, told The Times.

The students will submit their proposal by April 5, and FHLBB will select a winner on April 24.