All-Island planning board releases housing survey results

Data show homeowners are overwhelmingly satisfied with their housing situation, renters are overwhelmingly not.

Oak Bluffs from above. —Carl Treyz

The results from the five-week online housing survey, conducted by the All-Island Planning Board under the auspices of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission during October and November, show a tale of two Islands when it comes to housing.

Data culled from over 600 responses show that homeowners enjoy a high degree of satisfaction — 82 percent said they are happy with their situation. Only 13 percent of renters answered the same.

It was an informed group. The vast majority of respondents — over 70 percent — have been living on the Island for more than 10 years.

Roughly half of the respondents owned their homes on the Island; 40 percent did not. Ten percent lived off-Island. Of all homeowners, 88 percent were year-round residents.

By far, the most respondents came from the three down-Island towns: 82 percent were from Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and Edgartown. Chilmark, Aquinnah and West Tisbury were voices in the wilderness, accounting for the remaining 18%.

The numbers show an uphill battle for renters who hope to own. In addition to rising prices, 36 percent of renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing, including utilities. Only 15 percent of homeowners share that burden.

There is a stark contrast between renters and owners when it comes to stability. Eighty percent of renters have moved since 2010, and only 3 percent have been in their home since 2000; 45 percent of homeowners were in their home before 2000, and only 30 percent had moved since 2010.

Twenty-four percent of renters are still seeking year-round rentals; 29 percent said they want to buy a home but can find nothing in their price range.

Sixty-five percent of renters are either single or divorced, while 70 percent of owners reported being married.

Respondents were asked what they thought the housing priorities should be on Martha’s Vineyard. From a list of seven choices, renters placed “housing for households earning less than $50,000 per year,” “starter homes for young families,” and “housing for households earning between $50,001 and $100,000 per year” as the top three. Owners agreed on the first two, but placed “creating affordable housing for elders” substantially above “housing for households between $50,001 and $100,000 per year.”

Solution discussion

In the possible solutions categories, there was strong consensus that guest houses and accessory apartments should be allowed — 95 percent of renters were in favor, and 75 percent of homeowners agreed.

Weighing in on a percolating polemic, 86 percent of renters were in favor of taxing home rental to create an affordable housing fund, and the majority of homeowners were, too — 62 percent agreed.

Eighty-three percent of renters strongly or somewhat favored the creation of a “Housing Bank,” with a transfer tax similar to the Land Bank, while 65 percent of homeowners also favored the land-linked largesse.

Although “build density where density exists” has been a mantra of housing advocates, 36 percent of renters either somewhat or completely rejected the idea, and 37 percent of homeowners felt the same. Somewhat confusingly, both groups were also heavily in favor of allowing multifamily housing to be built in designated areas of town; 77 percent of owners and 86 percent of renters said so.

Up-Island towns may want to take note: A whopping 86 percent of renters are in favor of building density in rural areas, and 67 percent of owners also favor it.

The creation of dormitory-style housing for seasonal workers was heavily favored by both groups: 81 percent of renters and 84 percent of owners agreed it should be among the top priorities.

Depending on how you look at it, the survey supplied some encouraging information. For Islanders who are constantly checking every rental Facebook page, classified ad, friends and friends of friends, for a tip on a year-round place — of the renters who responded to the survey, 53 percent had year-round leases. On the whole, it’s a dismal percentage, but the data show it’s not the million-to-one shot it can often seem to be.

Also, home ownership may not require a winning lottery ticket: 45 percent of owners reported annual income between $50,000 and $100,000 — a category shared by 43 percent of renters.

“We got a lot of good information out of this,” MVC executive director Adam Turner said. “Once we process this, we need to do a second survey that can bore into more specific issues like workforce housing.”

Final public meetings for Housing Production Plan
The third and final round of housing production plan (HPP) interactive community workshops will be held next week. The workshops will help guide zoning and housing policies in all six Island towns, and will be the basis of an Island-wide HPP. The workshops are being held under the aegis of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), and run by planning consultants from RKG Associates and JM Goldson. The HPP workshops are the first step in a coordinated campaign to create housing opportunities for Islanders with a wide range of income levels.

At this final round of workshops, attendees will be presented with maps that show town-owned vacant lots, so specific housing sites can be discussed.“We’ll be presenting information that will shed new light on the Island housing shortage,” MVC executive director Adam Turner told The Times. “This last round of meetings is critical because we’ll be discussing specific housing options for each town. We encourage everyone, homeowners included, to attend. This isn’t just about housing. It’s about the long term health of the island economy.”

Aquinnah: Monday, Dec. 12, at 7 pm, at Old Town Hall. A community dinner starts at 6:30.

Chilmark: Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 7 pm at town hall, selectmen’s meeting room.

Edgartown: Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 5:30 at the Menemsha Room of the Harbor View Hotel.

Oak Bluffs: Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 7 pm, at the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria.

Tisbury: Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 pm, at the Tisbury Senior Center.

West Tisbury: Monday, Dec. 12, at 4 pm, at the Public Safety Building.

More information on the HPP, including results from the first two rounds of workshops, can be found on the MVC website,

Correction – An earlier version of this article stated the survey was done by the MVC. It was done by the All-Island Planning Board under the guidance of the MVC.