Lottery snafu dashes hopes of one couple
A recent mistake made by the Island Housing Trust (IHT) proved to be heartbreaking for one couple, while breathing new life into another. Justin Elia and Marilyn Calzone were originally given the opportunity to purchase a two-bedroom home at a reduced cost in Oak Bluffs. But Philippe Jordi, executive director of the IHT, announced last week that the drawing would have to be redone due to a "human error" in the IHT office.
The redrawing took place amongst a humble crowd Friday morning in the IHT office in Vineyard Haven. Oak Bluffs selectman Duncan Ross, town administrator Casey Sharpe, and a handful of applicants were present.
Mr. Elia's name, plus three others that were mistakenly left out of the original lottery, were placed in the second drawing.
Hopes were cut short for Mr. Elia, when his name was chosen last out of the four qualified candidates.
His partner, Marilyn Calzone, was present at the redrawing, but refused to speak to a Times reporter.
Nick and Noelle Warburton, originally the first alternates, were the first couple chosen in the redrawing and now have the opportunity to purchase the $195,000 home at the blinker light intersection.
"We deeply regret any hardship that was caused to Justin's family, and the embarrassment to selectmen," Mr. Jordi said at the redrawing.
The original drawing took place at the Oak Bluffs selectman's meeting last Tuesday with much fanfare, where selectmen Duncan Ross and Roger Wey took turns choosing the winners.
Mr. Jordi said that immediately after Mr. Elia was chosen as the winner of the opportunity to purchase the two-bedroom house, another couple approached him notifying the IHT that they had the same qualifications, but were not included in the lottery.
Mr. Jordi said an IHT staff member made the error, and if a document outlining all the applicants and their qualifications had been constructed - as is normal procedure - the mistake would not have happened.
"Just in doing that, the error probably would not have occurred," Mr. Jordi said in a telephone conversation Friday. "In the future there will be a review done by myself and David [Vigneault] to make sure that people are in the right classifications."
This document, outlining applicants and their specific qualifications regarding income, family size and town preference, was later produced for Friday morning's redrawing.
The properties and
The IHT offered two houses to qualifying applicants. The two dwellings - one has two bedrooms and a slightly larger one with three bedrooms - face each other on a small parcel of land near the blinker intersection in Oak Bluffs.
To qualify for the two-bedroom house, candidates had to have a combined family income at or below 110 percent of the area median income; for the three-bedroom house, income had to be at or below 140 percent of the median. If applicants met that standard, further preference was then given to Oak Bluffs residents, and to families with two or more people.
Four out of fourteen applicants qualified for the first lottery for the two-bedroom house, and only two out of four qualified for the three-bedroom. Applicants without family size or town preference were drawn as alternates.
Nancy and Michael "Panhead" Fuss, and Nick and Noelle Warburton secured the first two spots in the lottery for the homes. They have 30 days to secure funding with the bank, and both couples plan on moving forward with the purchase, Mr. Jordi said.
The Fusses were the first couple chosen in the lottery for the three-bedroom house, and have the opportunity to purchase the home for $280,000. They are also the first alternate for the two-bedroom home.
"This is like a godsend," Mr. Fuss said. "We never thought we'd be picked in a thousand years. People buy lottery tickets too and they never win."
The owner of Offshore Cycle in Vineyard Haven, Mr. Fuss said he was about to purchase the house he and his wife, a waitress at Linda Jean's, have rented in Oak Bluffs for 16 years. Although it would have stretched their financial limits, he said it was time for them to own a home. "Everybody gets frustrated, and sometimes we think 'why am I still on this island?' But I'm the lucky guy now."
The Warburtons were chosen first in the two-bedroom redrawing, and as the first alternate for the three-bedroom.
"We couldn't believe it," Noelle said, after they announced there would be a redrawing. "They called me at work to let me know. We feel really blessed that we were chosen."
Mr. Warburton, owner of stone masonry company Atlantis Hardscape, grew up on the Island and is surrounded by family and friends. Ms. Warburton, an administrative assistant at The Bank of Martha's Vineyard, has lived here year-round for five years.
"It a little tough to start a family and start a life when the real estate is so crazy," Ms. Warburton said. "It's not feasible for us to buy a half-million dollar fixer-upper."
Tracy and Matt Malowski were chosen as the second alternate for the two-bedroom home. Mr. Malowski, a high school teacher, and his wife, who works at the Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank, said the first thing they did after moving to the Island was visit the Dukes County Housing Authority to pursue housing options.
"We tried to get in on other lots in Oak Bluffs, but because of that ridiculous five-year thing we didn't qualify," Mr. Malowski said, referring to the six available Resident Homesite Committee lots.
Now with a 9-month-old daughter, Paige, the Malowskis are eagerly looking to buy. In the seven years they have lived in the Island, Mr. Malowski said they have moved ten times. They currently live in Oak Bluffs.
"That would be the only thing that pushes us off the Island," Mr. Malowski said. "We're tired of renting, and if we don't fall into one of these lotteries soon were probably going to have to leave. There's no other way of doing it."
Mr. Elia and Ms. Calzone, now the third alternate for the two-bedroom home, could not be reached for comment.