At Havenside housing complex, short-term waiting list dwindles
In the year 1909, an advertisement for an inn located at 145 Main St. in Vineyard Haven, named Havenside, enticed visitors with descriptions of comfortable rooms, good society, and beautiful grounds overlooking Vineyard Haven harbor.
Today, the four-building apartment complex that took its place, also named Havenside, continues to offer the same niceties to seniors who are full-time residents of Martha's Vineyard.
In addition to a water view and convenient location, the affordability of Havenside's 29 apartments is the big draw. Given the scarcity of apartments on Martha's Vineyard, especially those designed for seniors, Havenside's apartments have always been highly sought after, with an average of 50 to 80 names on a waiting list of two to five years.
Photos by Janet Hefler
Recently, however, that changed. "For reasons I don't quite understand, that list has diminished sharply in the past year," property manager Susan Phelps said in an interview last week.
For the first time in her 10 years as property manager, she is seeking prospective tenants for one-bedroom apartments. The list of couples waiting for Havenside's four two-bedroom apartments remains long.
"It's a weird gap time," Ms. Phelps noted. "I think a lot of people were discouraged about applying, because the word on the street was that you couldn't get in, so why bother." She figures some of the people who did apply and were anticipating a possible five-year wait dropped off the list and made other arrangements.
"And then the housing market has hit us, in the sense that some people who do want to give up their homes and move into an apartment right away feel they can't do it, because they are afraid they won't be able to sell or rent their houses," Ms. Phelps said.
Although there are a lot of people who want to move to Havenside in a few years, Ms. Phelps said, "We do have one apartment available at the first of the year, and I'm still hoping that we might be able to build up a list of people who are interested in coming in the near term, in the next year, if we have openings."
The apartment complex is owned by the nonprofit Havenside Corporation, which keeps rents as low as possible while allowing for necessary maintenance of the property.
"Havenside doesn't have an upper income limit - it fills a niche for the elderly who don't qualify for low-income housing but have modest means," Ms. Phelps explained. "Its mission is to provide at-cost housing for Island elders. It's a great community resource."
Constructed in 1966, Havenside represents the labor of two Loves, Margaret Love, a well-known Island philanthropist, and her brother Robert Love, the former owner of Martha's Vineyard Shipyard and chairman of the board of Allegheny Airlines. "Margaret had the idea that something had to be done to help provide the elderly on Martha's Vineyard with affordable housing," Ms. Phelps said. "I figured out one time that something like over 200 people - and families - have benefited from this facility since the 1960s."
After purchasing the property and having the inn torn down, the Loves designed and built the apartment complex under the auspices of their nonprofit Romarlo Foundation. In 1973, they donated the facility to the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The diocese created the Havenside Corporation, governed by a nine-member board of directors, to run the apartment complex in 1991.
Although Havenside remains affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese through three board members from Martha's Vineyard's three Episcopal churches, it is non-sectarian and is not subsidized by private, church, or government sources.
Rents currently range from $665 for a one-bedroom basement-level apartment to $985 for a two-bedroom.
Tenants pay for their own electric, phone, and TV/cable utilities. Gas-fired heat and hot water are provided centrally, but zoned, so that each tenant pays according to meter readings. Town water is included in the rent. No smokers or pets are allowed.
An applicant must be 62 or older and a year-round Vineyard resident for at least two years or related to a year-round resident of at least two years. "We have quite a few parents of Islanders living here now, which has been really great for families," Ms. Phelps said. "You have to be here the majority of the year - it's not a place for snowbirds, because it's run by a non-profit with a mission to provide housing for people who really need it."
Ms. Phelps estimates about half of Havenside's current tenants are 80 or over, and the other half mostly in their 70s. Residents must be able to live independently and negotiate sloped terrain and steps.
"We have a lot of people who live here throughout their old age, because of town and state services available," Ms. Phelps said. Tenants are responsible for arranging any assistance they need. Some qualify for government rental or fuel assistance programs, or Medicare- or Medicaid-supported home health or nursing services.
On Thursday afternoons, Havenside offers a social hour for tenants, who are sometimes joined by residents of Love House next door. Once part of Havenside, Love House is now owned and managed by Island Elderly Housing (IEH), an organization co-founded by Ms. Love, Carol Lashnits, and Marguerite Bergstrom in 1976. Ms. Phelps noted that Havenside is sometimes confused with Hillside Village on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, which is owned by IEH.
In looking toward Havenside's future, Ms. Phelps said, "We always keep in the back of our minds the idea to expand the mission of this organization, and we are open to ideas and to collaboration with other affordable housing organizations on Martha's Vineyard to create more moderate-income housing, affordable housing for elderly people. "We know there is going to be a demand for it, not only because of the economic downturn but because the Baby Boomers are coming."
For more information about Havenside, call 508-693-2280.