IAHF board president resigns, more change to come
Robert Wheeler, co-president of the Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF), has resigned from the IAHF board. His resignation was effective immediately, according to a press statement issued late Friday.
Candy daRosa, who shared the leadership post with Mr. Wheeler, was named president of the board. She will serve in that capacity until the spring annual meeting, when she will relinquish her leadership role.
The nonprofit housing group announced the changes in a press statement released Friday at about 5 pm. In a telephone call Tuesday, IAHF executive director T. Ewell Hopkins told The Times that Mr. Wheeler left the board for personal reasons unrelated to efforts to reshape the board and the overall direction of the organization. He said that Mr. Wheeler will be off-Island for several months, and decided he could not serve effectively from a distance.
The presidency of the fund will be decided at the IAHF's public meeting in June. After that, Ms. daRosa will remain on the IAHF board, leading the fund's event committee and continuing to raise money.
"It has been our intent to implement term limits and to encourage more community involvement in the board, and to limit our officers' time on the board," Mr. Hopkins told The Times.
Ms. daRosa and Mr. Wheeler have served as co-presidents of the fund for five years. During their co-presidency, according to the IAHF statement that was distributed by Guinevere Cramer, the fund's development director, the fund has recorded "a number of momentous accomplishments, including the funding and completion of numerous affordable homes, rallying support and helping pass the Community Preservation Act on Martha's Vineyard, the introduction of Housing on the Tube, and an increase in the community's awareness of the struggle to provide affordable housing to the year-round residents, just to name a few."
Just before Christmas, the fund announced that it would be unable to meet its commitment to share the cost of the Regional Housing Authority's Island-wide rental housing assistance program during the second half of fiscal 2010. The housing authority appealed to Island towns for funding to fill the gap left by the IAHF's reduced support. In the aftermath, the fund and its leadership came under intense pressure.
Critics questioned the management of IAHF finances and the fund's failure to warn the RHA and the towns of the impending shortfall sooner than it did, jeopardizing winter housing for as many as 80 Island families, as well as the landlords who had committed to leasing through the RHA program.
Mr. Hopkins joined IAHF in October, following the departure last summer of Patrick Manning.
"Yes, we've made our mistakes," Mr. Hopkins said. "We also are a volunteer board that had a director with a different management style than I. That's history, and all that's good and bad about it is history."
Mr. Hopkins said the challenge now is to move forward. He said, "I am looking for people that want to be a part of fixing the problem versus just criticizing the past."
Mr. Hopkins offered a rundown of his immediate agenda. He said IAHF has downgraded its fundraising goal for the Bradley Square project in Oak Buffs to one that is more attainable. The goal is not $5 million, the cost of the project as planned, but $700,000, he said.
"We need to get out from underneath the mortgage so that money that is collected can go to the advancement of what will ultimately be at Bradley Square," Mr. Hopkins said. "We have the permits for the project as it is; the question is, do we have the fiscal support for that?"
For now, IAHF and the NAACP have partnered to retire the debt. Once that is completed, there will be a public discussion of how to move forward, Mr. Hopkins said.
Ticking off his immediate challenges, Mr. Hopkins said that Bradley Square is the big project. IAHF is also working to get families into 250 State Road in West Tisbury, sell the market-rate unit built as part of the Jenney Way project in Edgartown and continue to stabilize the rental assistance program, which has more than 100 people on the waiting list.
There is not one problem and there is not one solution, Mr. Hopkins said.