To the Editor:
After 15 years of work to help alleviate the housing shortage, I find us more at risk than ever before. The attraction of highly profitable short-term rentals has pushed prices way up, and taken many, many units off the year-round market. Current efforts and funding sources are simply not enough. Now we’ve been provided an opportunity by the state, in the form of new revenue derived from what to a great extent is part of the problem — the extension of the hotel rooms tax to all short-term rentals.
An Island-wide Housing Bank would operate much like the Land Bank. The Land Bank has been successful in great part due to its “Regional Vision/Local Control” approach and its reliable source of funding. Two warrant articles in each town — one proposing an Island-wide Housing Bank, the other proposing funding it with a portion of the new tax revenues — use just those principles. There is understandable concern that using those funds will prevent towns from covering other much-needed costs. Projections indicate the opposite — that even after some goes to funding housing, there is more left over than is coming in now. But we don’t need to rely on projections. Once passed, the articles go the legislature to be turned into law. We’ll need to vote locally a second time to actually take part — by which time we’ll know just how much money is coming in. So there is no risk at this time. But if we don’t vote now to get this started, then the opportunity is lost as those funds get absorbed into budgets and become quite difficult to access. Please vote yes for the two Housing Bank articles. Providing options for retirees to remain here, and to retain our teachers, nurses, first responders and other professionals, depends on it.