Derrill Bazzy went before Aquinnah selectmen Tuesday to propose that a portion of the extended mandatory state tax on short-term rentals could benefit both the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank.
Bazzy told selectmen the MV Housing Bank is an extension of the citizens committee, which in 2017 presented a nonbinding resolution asking voters about the need for a housing bank at each annual town meeting in April.
The town has the option of imposing the maximum additional excise tax of 6 percent on rentals longer than 14 days but shorter than 32 days in total throughout the year.
The local excise tax, Bazzy said, could be split between the town and the MV Housing Bank, in order to safeguard affordable housing into the future.
This means the fund would receive half of the extended local excise tax.
“This law that just got passed is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Bazzy said. “This would be a resource of continual funding that would be relatively predictable.”
Bazzy said all towns would be asked at the annual meeting to devote a portion of their local tax to the housing bank.
The MV Housing Bank, Bazzy said, would be structured similarly to the Land Bank. “We see the Land Bank, administratively, as being a very successful model,” he said.
At the annual town meeting, Bazzy said two warrant articles will need to be proposed: One will request that the fund be formed, and the second will request that 3 percent of the extended local tax be devoted to that fund.
Bazzy said towns can choose to opt out of the housing bank if they do not wish to contribute to the fund, and those towns will not be involved in housing bank matters.
Town administrator Jeff Madison wondered whether diverting money to the housing bank would be “the most appropriate use for new revenue coming into this community.”
He said people on Martha’s Vineyard have a nebulous view of the ways this tax will be imposed and collected. “The one question I haven’t seen an answer to is the means by which the town sets whether or not it collects 4 or 6 percent,” Madison said. “Whether by town meeting action or whether the selectmen can choose to do this themselves; I haven’t been made aware of the mechanism by which this decision is made.”
For Bazzy, the future of housing on Martha’s Vineyard is the main focus. “In the long term, who will be able to afford to live here?” Bazzy asked. “At what point will none of our children be able to afford housing?”