Chilmark lifts limit on heirs to subsidized housing
Chilmark selectmen Tuesday voted two-to-one to remove language in a deed rider that would have imposed affordable housing income standards on the heirs of Sean and Dardanella Slavin. The decision resolved an immediate issue, but it does not end the discussion regarding town policy.
In a January lottery, the Slavins won the right to buy a 2.1-acre lot in the High Meadows development for $40,000. As part of the pre-application process, the Slavins received a housing packet that included a summary of deed restrictions, but the affordability restriction on heirs was not included.
Two weeks ago, the Slavins met with selectmen to explain that they were not aware of the restrictive language until final documents were being prepared. They asked the selectmen for relief from the requirement, so that a surviving spouse or children would be able to inherit and live in a house designated as affordable, whether or not they met the income guidelines imposed on qualified applicants.
Chairman Frank Fenner defended the requested relief, on the grounds that entrants acted in good faith, using the information provided, and that the move would establish another family in Chilmark for generations to come.
Selectman Warren Doty, who also serves on the board of the Island Housing Trust, noted that language in Island Housing Trust deeds ensures that an affordable home remains in the affordable housing pool. He said that IHT restrictions require the home to be lived in year-round by the descendants. The home may not be a summer house, rental, or spec house, remains permanently restricted, and may never be sold at market rates.
Selectman J.B. Riggs Parker, who voted not to allow the relief to the Slavins, said he favored the restrictions as written. He said the change would effectively remove the home from the affordable market.
Mr. Parker told Ms. Slavin, who was in attendance, that his decision was not personal but related to the principle of affordable housing in perpetuity. He said that the town is behind in its affordable housing effort, and that only 10 additional affordable homesites are currently planned. "We have only 10 more sites and no land for others. After that we're done," he said, noting that draft language in agreements governing planned affordable homesites on Middle Line Road and Nabb's Corner do not allow income restrictions to be waived.
The current draft of ground lease language for homesites at Middle Line Road and Nabb's Corner limits heritability by surviving spouses or descendants unless they qualify under income restrictions and plan to reside full time in the residence. The draft language does allow a descendant to inherit the value of the house, including an inflation factor, if he or she does not qualify under income rules to continue to live in the house, and if it is resold to another income-qualified affordable buyer, Mr. Parker said.
"That is a different issue. We can argue that, but I believe, in this instance, the rider should be amended," Mr. Fenner countered.
In a telephone conversation yesterday, Andrew Goldman, chairman of the Chilmark affordable housing committee, said the differences between IHT and Middle Line Road lease language are minor points. "The goal is to provide affordable housing in perpetuity as much as possible," he said.
Mr. Goldman, a retired attorney who worked on the language in both leases, continued: "In the case of a child (inheriting), the IHT and Chilmark selectmen in the Slavin application are saying the child does not have to be in need to inherit. In the case of Middle Line Road, the ground lease draft language says the child must be in need (of affordable housing). Nobody is inventing the wheel here. Everyone involved with affordable housing wants the same thing. There is disagreement on this wrinkle."