On a picture-perfect fall afternoon with dappled sunlight cascading through trees beginning to change color, local and state housing leaders pushed shovels into the ground as the first step in building the Scott’s Grove housing development.
Nine affordable rental units are planned in the $3 million West Tisbury development off Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, next to a baseball field and one of the town’s fire stations.
“These types of projects don’t just fall off the back of a truck,” Philippe Jordi, executive director of the Island Housing Trust, said at Friday’s ceremony. “It takes a lot of people.”
Three dozen of those people were gathered into what will be the center of the development.
Mr. Jordi praised West Tisbury’s progressive multi-family bylaw and the work of its officials, funding from the community preservation committee, private donations, and state funds that made it all come together.
“I walked over from my house today, it’s only about a 3-minute walk, but the walk to Scott’s Grove has taken over four years,” Larry Schubert, chairman of the town’s affordable housing committee, said. He thanked Susan Scott, the former property owner who donated the land: “Our community is going to be a more vibrant, more stable place to live.”
Chrystal Kornegay, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said the $900,000 grant provided by the state is a demonstration of the commitment of the Baker administration to community-scale housing projects.
“One of the things I use to measure how badly people want things is how much of your money are you willing to spend because I know how much of mine you’re willing to spend,” she said. “Out here, you guys put up your money, put up your land, put up your time, put up your effort. So we’re just so excited to be here and help you bring this whole thing together.”
The project is receiving $1.4 million in community preservation funds.
Ms. Kornegay also gave a shout out to Buddy the dog, mascot of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority. “This job, the stress that comes along with getting these things done, I’m sure Buddy helped all the folks on the staff,” she said.
Tim Sullivan, executive director of MassHousing, said West Tisbury is part of a $160 million effort to address housing challenges across the state. He pointed out that out of 351 cities and towns in the Bay State, more than 200 of them have not permitted affordable residential housing with more than five units in the last several years. “There’s a production problem statewide,” he said. “Ten cities and towns in Massachusetts produced half the rental housing in the last two years.”
It’s partnerships like the one on the Island that are making a difference. “We don’t expect this to be our last stop here,” Mr. Sullivan said. “There’s a need here and there’s a great building infrastructure and a real commitment.”
Scott’s Grove will have three one-bedroom units, three two-bedroom units, and three three-bedroom units. Apartments will be rented to Island residents of low and moderate income — at or below 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI) and at or below 80 percent AMI.
For a household of two people, 80 percent AMI is $54,400 per year. 50 percent AMI for a household of two is $34,800 per year.
Once built, the rental units will be available through a lottery system offered by the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, Mr. Schubert said.
State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, said he rents his house because he can’t afford a house in the district he represents. “Lack of affordable housing is driving young people, and families, and the seniors who helped build our community off Island and out of the district,” he said. “If we don’t address it, lack of affordability is going to erode our communities far quicker than the ocean will.”