All-Island Planning Board and MVC team up to tackle affordable housing

The two organizations take concrete steps to build a regional response to the regional crisis.

The Martha's Vineyard Commission will consider a special permit which would allow Wave Lengths Salon's new building to exceed town building height restrictions. — Martha's Vineyard Times file pho

Members of two regional bodies, the long-established Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) and the more recently established All-Island Planning Board (AIPB), met on Monday night at the West Tisbury library to discuss how the six Island towns can work together to address Island-wide issues. The agenda was dominated by affordable housing.

Virginia Jones, chairman of the West Tisbury planning board, ran the meeting.

“It’s been a busy but productive period,” Peter Temple, AIPB member from Aquinnah, said, referring to the two months that have passed since the last AIPB meeting. Mr. Temple said the Housing Work Group, a committee spun off from the AIPB, had doubled in size since the last meeting, expanding from one to two representatives per town, appointed by the respective town planning boards.

Most significantly, Mr. Temple said, with guidance and $40,000 in initial funding from the MVC, affordable housing consultants had been hired and had begun work on a Housing Production Plan (HPP) for each of the six towns.

Roslindale-based JM Goldson and Dover, N.H.–based RKG Associates were awarded the contract after responding to a request for proposals (RFP). Mr. Temple said the consultants had already visited the Island and prepared a timeline for the project. They will spend the summer updating the MVC 2013 Housing Needs Assessment, and will submit a revised draft by the end of August. Public meetings and visioning sessions will be held in each town during the fall, and final reports will be delivered to town officials by Jan. 13, 2017. If selectmen and planning boards approve the HPPs, they will go to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for certification. Once certified, the HPPs can be used to apply for federal and state funding, as well as provide the foundation for an Island-wide HPP.

Mr. Temple said that the public meetings — there will be three for each town — would no doubt be spirited affairs. “We want the naysayers to come out,” he said. “We can’t build consensus if we don’t hear all sides.”

MVC executive director Adam Turner said that he anticipates an additional $90,000 for the HPPs to come from DHCD. He also noted that a regional approach to affordable housing had already begun, since the application required the signature from the selectmen from all six towns. “That was no small feat,” he said.

MVC affordable housing planner Christine Flynn presented a game plan intended to create uniformity in terms and definitions for affordable and community housing.

Ms. Flynn said that an MVC study of town zoning bylaws done last year showed “significant gaps” in the terms and definitions of affordable and community housing.

“We want to make sure everyone is very clear on income thresholds, and we want to create uniformity on the Island,” Ms. Flynn said. To that end, Ms. Flynn and the MVC will be working with the joint affordable housing group — a committee of affordable housing committee members from each town, the Island Housing Trust, Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, and private-sector volunteers — to get a zoning bylaw on each 2017 town meeting warrant that defines “affordable housing” as deed-restricted year-round rental or ownership for households earning up to 80 percent of area median income (AMI). The bylaw will also define “community housing” as permanently deed-restricted year-round rental or ownership for households earning between 81 percent of AMI and 150 percent of AMI.

For Dukes County, 80 percent AMI for a single person is $46,000, and for a family of four, it is $65,700. For a single person, 150 percent AMI is $88,950, and it is $126,900 for a family of four.

“Workforce housing” can be defined using either the affordable-housing or community-housing definition.

Towns will have to pass the bylaw by a two-thirds vote.

The AIPB will meet again on Monday, Sept. 26.