Magazine to be voice of the affordable housing effort
A new magazine makes its debut next week: Framework, The Journal of Affordable Housing on Martha's Vineyard. Nis Kildegaard, its editor, designer, and principal writer, says that he envisions it as a voice on the Vineyard for the movement which tries to bring home ownership and year-round rentals within the reach of ordinary working men and women.
Framework will be published three times a year — in the fall, winter, and spring. The first number, with a press run of 3,500, will soon be available in libraries, town halls, and other public places. It will also be found on the web site of the Island Affordable Housing Fund — www.iahf.vineyard.net/. It will be sent to donors and other persons already active in the movement, as well as to public officials.
There has been no shortage of voices for affordable housing on Martha's Vineyard. In the past seven or eight years, there have been many bright, committed persons willing to talk to anyone who would listen. The high price of real estate, they have been telling us, makes everything else on the Vineyard cost more and threatens to drive away critical numbers of the professionals and everyday employees on whom the Island's infrastructure depends. They also tell us that much has already been done, or at least begun. Although contrary winds are turbulent and sometimes strong, some creative solutions are already in place and more are proposed.
However, the array of affordable housing agencies and groups is confusing to the outsider. There are the Housing Authority, the Housing Fund, the Housing Trust, and perhaps soon the Housing Bank. Add Habitat for Humanity, the Housing Ecumenical Action Team, the Rental Conversion Program, and independent projects like Island Co-Housing, and even a sympathetic listener begins to suffer affordable-housing overload. While the reality is that the groups work together and overlap very little, it is hard to keep them straight, and the clutter of different voices may start to sound like chatter in a crowded room.
One day last spring, it occurred to Nis Kildegaard, while in-line skating in the state forest, that affordable housing needed one voice to speak for all. In an interview last week, he told The Times, "I thought we needed a better quality of civic discourse about affordable housing."
Since leaving his long-held job as the news editor of the Vineyard Gazette, Mr. Kildegaard has been freelancing as a book editor, writer, and teacher.
Not himself an insider in the movement, Mr. Kildegaard took the idea to John Abrams, considered by many the father of affordable housing on the Island, and Mr. Abrams took it to Philippe Jordi, Emily Graham Levett, David Vigneault, and the others in the movement. Ms. Levett told The Times that some of the agencies had already considered publishing together and were delighted to find an editor with Mr. Kildegaard's writing and design skills.
"It is exactly what we'd hoped it would be," Ms. Levett said of Framework, "a gem in the making."
The first issue lays out the principles and history of the affordable housing movement. In a piece titled, "First Land, then the People," Mr. Kildegaard makes a comparison between open space conservation on the Island and the affordable housing movement. He traces land conservation to the creation of the Trustees of Reservations in 1891. That movement gained impetus on the Vineyard in the 1960s and 1970s to meet the threat of unchecked development, and culminated in 1986 with the creation of the Land Bank. It still thrives today. In the judgment of most, the movement has been an unqualified success in preserving open space. The affordable housing movement is now in its infancy, beginning formally with the creation of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority in 1986. But the new movement has already accomplished a surprising amount of change, most of it in the last eight years. Advocates hope that it can do as much for "people conservation" as land conservation did for open space, Mr. Kildegaard reports.
The first issue of Framework also includes articles on the Housing Bank's chances on Beacon Hill and John Ryan's second Island Housing Report, which found distressingly rapid growth in housing costs. There are brief messages from Mr. Vigneault, Mr. Jordi, and Ms. Levett, as well as a profile of John Abrams, a story on Terri Keech, the administrator of the Rental Conversion Program, and interviews with two landlords in that program. The issue ends with 10 principles that affordable housing advocates share.
Future issues will grapple more specifically with some of the controversy, concepts, and problems introduced in this month's number and present more profiles and human-interest stories.
Mr. Abrams told The Times that he is excited, not least because the directors of three agencies worked together with Mr. Kildegaard to define where the movement is and where it is going. He said that the magazine will promote the exchange of ideas throughout the community and allow it to discuss complicated issues in more depth.
"We're going to gain a consistency that we haven't had before," Mr. Abrams said in a telephone interview. "Every few months there will be another [magazine issue] along to raise the important questions."
Ms. Levett hopes that the magazine will provoke discussion and feedback. "We are creating housing for the community. What does the community want?" she asked. It is not a question with a simple answer. Framework is intended to be a channel for that discourse, debate, and controversy.