IAHF, donations lagging, cannot continue rental housing funding
The Vineyard Housing Office (VHO), the face of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (RHA), scrambled this week to find fresh funds to support its rental assistance program, after learning Friday that Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF) can no longer supply $23,000 to $26,000 in monthly support.
IAHF, which has supported the rental program to the tune of $2.64 million since 2001, has experienced a significant drop in donations, including donor pledges that were not fulfilled, Candy daRosa of Chilmark, co-president of the fund, said yesterday.
"It is what has been happening to everybody. We've not had as many donations, although fundraising was good this summer. We had hoped to be able to fund the [rental housing] program with donations, which have not materialized. I should take responsibility here. I should have recognized the handwriting on the wall way sooner, so we could have given more notice," Ms. daRosa said. "The timing before winter is horrific."
Ms. daRosa said that IAHF operates on a budget of about $1 million a year, of which $400,000 in anticipated, or hoped for, fundraising proceeds are missing. The fund has other ongoing commitments, including contracts for the construction of the 250 State Road housing project and the ongoing costs of the Bradley Square project in Oak Bluffs.
T. Ewell Hopkins, IAHF director, and David Vigneault, RHA director, wrote letters over the weekend to landlords and tenants who participate in the program, describing the funding shortfall and looking for ways to get through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2010, and more critically through the November-December period now upon us. Mr. Vigneault said yesterday that the responses from landlords were "very constructive."
"We have always depended on the good will of the landlords," Mr. Vigneault added.
Mr. Vigneault and his office were having a very bad week, because following the IAHF news at the end of last week, on Monday fire destroyed the interior of one Fisher Road Town Houses apartment and damaged the interior of another. The RHA operates the Fisher Road Town Houses in Edgartown.
Ms. daRosa said the fund is reaching out to its faithful supporters for special assistance and intensifying its year-end fundraising campaign effort. Mr. Hopkins, in a statement officially released Monday but available before the weekend, wrote, "The Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF) and the Dukes county Regional Housing office today notified the landlords and tenants of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority rental assistance program that IAHF is not able to meet its current monthly financial contribution. It is the intent of IAHF to resume its contribution to this program at the earliest possible date."
Mr. Hopkins added yesterday that his calls to landlords and tenants were intended to make clear that the current difficulty did not mean that IAHF had turned away from assisting the rental housing program.
A total of 85 landlords and tenants benefit from the rental subsidy program, Mr. Vigneault says. Forty-five of them were beneficiaries of the IAHF funds, about $300,000 in the fiscal 2010 budget year. The balance were supported from town contributions from Community Preservation Act accounts, budgeted at $254,000.
Mr. Vigneault said the VHO and IAHF have been in discussions for some time as IAHF struggled to meet its October obligation and then faced the prospect of being unable to make the November payment. IAHF has been a funding "bulwark" for the program, Mr. Vigneault said, but going forward there is an urgent need to replace some or all of that funding. He said that, in visits to several Island town officials, notably Chilmark and Edgartown, there is willingness, where the municipal financial problems permit, to increase the town contributions to the rental assistance program.