Island Housing Trust (IHT) broke ground on its latest affordable housing project Thursday on Greenwood Avenue in Tisbury, across the street from the entrance to Camp Jabberwocky.
With the backdrop of bright sunlight coming through a large swath of trees on the lot, IHT officials and town leaders pierced the ground with ceremonial shovels. The green-tipped spades are showing some wear from how often IHT is pulling them out for projects.
The $2.5 million project will feature three duplexes with six ownership units. For perspective, they’re modeled after the IHT project on Lake Street — just a few blocks away. Work will begin in earnest on the housing in two to three weeks.
“It’s so exciting,” said Richard Leonard, president of the IHT board and president of Cape Cod Five on-Island. “The housing that’s being created is for people who are already important parts of our community.”
Four of the units will be set aside for either Tisbury or Oak Bluffs residents, because the two towns contributed Community Preservation funds to the project, Philippe Jordi, executive director of IHT, told The Times. The other two units will be available Islandwide.
The property was purchased with $300,000, Jordi said. A family foundation provided the $300,000 at 1 percent interest. “We’re going to be paying them back shortly, and then starting the project, and that money will be used to purchase our next property. So it’s like a revolving loan fund. They’re really excited about it because it’s not just a donation. It’s an investment that’s going to keep realizing new projects.”
Leonard told the partisan affordable housing crowd that there are 53 units of housing in the works. Not enough.
“Those 53 units is a good number, right?” he said. “Well, the number we need is about 1,100.”
Community Preservation funds are not enough to keep the investment coming. A commitment is needed for new funds, he said plugging the Housing Bank campaign that’s underway.
Derrill Bazzy, project director for IHT, said the town of Tisbury has been “phenomenal” to work with in the process of getting approvals. “It’s been a collaborative thing to make things better,” he said of the feedback from the town.
Faren Worthington, project analyst, was credited with getting buy-in from the neighbors by going door-to-door. “We owe a lot of thanks to this neighborhood,” Worthington said. “They really get it, and understood the need for affordable housing in this neighborhood.”
The project will feature a septic system that’s being tested by Tisbury to reduce nitrogen going into the environment, known as a NitROE system, paid for in part with an innovation grant, Jordi said.
As the shovels were digging into the ground, someone joked that it was the location for the septic system. When the first group finished up for the cameras, Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg, an advocate for the pilot septic system, said, “Keep digging. We have a long way to go.”