Housing for those whose options are few


The West Tisbury selectmen have agreed to award three lots in Bailey Park to Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard (HFHMV). Habitat will build three dwellings on the lots, in partnership with donors and, most important, the families who will come to own this genuinely affordable and badly needed housing.

These sweat equity homeowner partners — 350 to 500 hours of their own hands-on work — will not qualify for affordable housing of the sort that has become more familiar to us — what we describe as “high-priced affordable” housing. The needs of Habitat’s customers are basic, and their personal investment in the acquisition of shelter is enormous.

The ambition of Habitat of Martha’s Vineyard to develop these three houses on land furnished by the town is admirable. The willingness, on the part of the West Tisbury selectmen, to place such a project in Habitat’s hands is laudable. It is a partnership on behalf of housing that is genuinely affordable and genuinely needed by those who will come to own it. It is housing that the housing market on its own cannot be reasonably expected to provide. And, it is housing that is economical for a community whose taxpayers embrace their responsibility to help those who are shut out of the market for shelter, and even the market for the subsidized housing with which we have become accustomed.

Bailey Park Road Community Housing (Bailey Park) resulted from several years of determined, careful work by Habitat, in concert with the town’s Affordable Housing Committee (WTAHC) and the townsfolk who deploy Community Preservation Act funds.

Habitat plans to build the houses sequentially. The first unit will be a recycled house donated by MV Savings Bank from its property in West Tisbury. MV Savings Bank will also donate funds to cover the cost of the house move and a new foundation.

Each of the three will be built with volunteer labor, donated materials, and materials purchased with donated funds. This three-unit, three-year project conforms exactly to Habitat’s mission statement: “Our mission is to build simple, decent housing for families in the lowest qualifying income range. Our homes are built with volunteer labor, donated materials, and charitable donations. We believe that addressing the lack of affordable housing — one house at a time — will keep our Island a healthy, vital community.”

This page has for a decade regarded Habitat’s contribution to the affordable housing effort as an unambiguous plus. The way Habitat works, the costs of its projects, the segment of the Island population that it serves, the financing mechanism, the sweat equity contributions that are required — it’s an appropriately targeted, economical model that deserves the sort of support just given by the voters of West Tisbury.

Habitat will sell each house to a family with income of 80 percent or less of the Dukes County Area Median income, now $65,900 for a family of four. The homes will be financed with HFHMV, which will provide interest-free mortgage financing to the buyers. Habitat will convey the land to the Island Housing Trust, which will lease the land to the homeowner to guarantee perpetual affordability.

“We are launching the ‘Build a Wonderful Life in Bailey Park’ campaign to raise $250,000 to support this project,” Ron DiOrio, HFHMV chairman and an Oak Bluffs selectman said this week. “As in the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ where George Bailey gets a second chance, we believe affordable housing gives working Island families a new chance to live a wonderful life on Martha’s Vineyard. We are grateful to the town of West Tisbury for giving us this opportunity. Now we need donor support to build.”