To the Editor:
I am writing to address the letter that the Oak Bluffs selectmen sent to Dylan Fernandes and Julian Cyr concerning the proposed Housing Bank (“Oak Bluffs opposes Housing Bank,” Feb. 28). There are a number of significant misleading statements which belie the fact that they “crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s.”
Although they admit that they do not know the “fine detail,” they declare that the project will have an “immediate and devastating effect on our community.” There is nothing “immediate” about this project — it will take at least a year or longer before anything of consequence is achieved. And “devastating” is a rather harsh term to use, especially when one is ignorant of the details.
They assert that “the campaign has overlooked the town’s plans and neglected to recognize or account for the progress made.” The Housing Bank is not intended to replace town efforts in addressing housing needs, but to supplement them. While the funds generated by the Housing Bank (and these would not be only from the new taxes) would be used to help towns build affordable housing, they would also be used to construct year-round housing, which is in short supply Island-wide.
They also indicate that during the campaign’s brief tenure, it has failed to meet with local officials. Indeed, the campaign is in its nascent stage, and has not had a chance to meet with local officials. However, these individuals are welcome to join the campaign at any time and share their views and concerns. In fact, one of the signers of the selectmen’s letter was suggested to join the group, but unfortunately never attended.
The allegation that this is “a self-appointed, closed committee which has received substantial funding from real estate development interests” is flawed on several levels. The group (of which I am a member) is largely an extension of the all-Island committee that helped produced the housing production plans a few years ago. It consists of representation from all six towns — members of various committees such as planning boards, affordable housing committees, and community preservation committees. While there is representation from the real estate and banking industry, no “substantial funding” has been received. The members of this committee are simply those folks that are deeply concerned with the Island-wide housing problem, and are men and women who are volunteering their time and effort to address the issue. To suggest otherwise is deeply insulting.
As far as asking for “a large share of local government dollars,” nothing could be further from the truth. As noted in the Times editorial “Money in the Bank?” (Jan. 17), the new excise tax is “found money.” The towns can use this for anything they choose, but any money contributed to the Housing Bank cannot be spent unless the Housing Bank Commission (consisting of one member from each town) agrees. In addition, the municipal housing trust of the town wishing to spend the money must consent.
The Housing Bank would benefit all six towns. However, if Oak Bluffs or any other town doesn’t want to join, that’s their prerogative. They might just be shortchanging their residents.
Finally, it is noted the Edgartown has called the project a “gamble” because it depends on the tax revenue. The tax has been approved by the legislature. And if it is a gamble, it’s one worth taking. The odds are good, and the survival of the Island may depend on it.
Further information can be obtained at the campaign website, HousingBankMV.org.