Great step forward
The Pennywise Path affordable housing development, now under construction, is a prime model for the Vineyard, if it wants to defeat the affordable housing dilemma. Pennywise, eight years in the permitting and financing phase of the project, will provide 60 units of mixed-income rental housing on 12 acres of town land off the Vineyard Haven Road.
What does it take to make a real dent in the housing shortage, so that young people and families of modest means can get a start here? As Pennywise demonstrates, it takes community determination, the support of voters willing to spend money to solve a problem that promises to cripple their future, experienced developers who can get the job done on a scale that makes a difference. And, it requires unrelenting leadership to knit all these strands together.
Indeed, the leadership - realistic, determined, and widely respected - comes first, and Edgartown was fortunate to have Ted Morgan, and now Alan Gowell. Mr. Morgan, whose commitment and hard work are described this morning in a news report written by Nis Kildegaard, came to the Pennywise project with a clear understanding of the housing problem and a long record of accomplishment as an Edgartown selectmen and in other public service capacities. Mr. Morgan gets things done.
The project is substantial, and it is aimed at the heart of the immediate problem.
"Almost everyone in the business at that time [when the Pennywise effort began] was working on the side of home ownership," Mr. Morgan told The Times writer. "We felt there was a need for rentals. We were looking at a mixed-income project, and we knew that some of the people wouldn't be making too much money. We were thinking of teachers who would be coming to the Island, knowing that our teachers are going to be retiring in the near future. We thought about seniors who could no longer afford to keep their houses. And we felt that with this project, we would concentrate on rentals."
To get this project done, Mr. Morgan, Mr. Gowell and the other members of the development committee, along with the Edgartown selectmen and town voters faced the regulatory gantlet. Mr. Morgan's determination and resiliency endured the ordeal. Doing so, he learned that the regulators, particularly the Martha's Vineyard Commission, do not appreciate the problem and often serve as an obstacle to solving it. "Frustrating", Mr. Morgan said.
Mr. Morgan correctly argues that it is the responsibility of political leaders in each community to lead the attack on the affordable housing shortage. We argue that the fight for affordable housing demands efforts such as Edgartown's, plus remodeling of development regulations and regulators to encourage housing of a scale that takes a bite rather than a nibble out of the large and growing affordable housing deficiency.
It may be the middle of summer, but Edgartown voters need to do a little town business. The special town meeting tonight, at 7:30 pm, in the cafeteria of the Edgartown School, will be asked to appropriate $1,555,000 to take by eminent domain a 2.18-acre parcel of land adjacent to the New Westside Cemetery. Edgartown voters will do themselves a service by, first, attending in sufficient numbers to get the work done; and, then, by agreeing to the proposal. The cemetery needs more room. These 2.18 acres, which are destined in private hands to host four new houses, can provide the town with 30 years of room, and the borrowed money will be repaid to the town over time. This is a smart move for the cemetery and the town, and we urge Edgartown voters to agree.