Towns need to band together

1

To the Editor:

Regarding the recent decision by the town of Oak Bluffs not to participate in an Island-wide affordable housing solution:

We are 16,000 folks living on one small Island. Most of our needs are supported by others living elsewhere on the Island and, more often, off-Island. Housing is a critical need every town shares, and we are at a crisis point in Dukes County. With a 0 percent vacancy in affordable year-round housing, as analyzed in the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking of healthiest U.S. counties, it is the only blemish on our healthy status (bit.ly/MVHealthiest). Some matters are best left to each of our six towns, but affordable housing is not one of them. We are stronger and more effective when we band together and share responsibility for our Island’s housing-challenged teachers, nurses, firefighters, EMTs, servers, tradespeople — our neighbors.

If O.B. has solved part of the challenge, great! Why not band together with adjacent towns? The revenue coming from the short-term rental tax is new revenue, never before budgeted or earmarked. To place it in a general fund creates a condition where it is likely never to be recovered. The Housing Bank MV proposes that we work together, that we cooperate, that we recognize that we all suffer when folks we depend upon for our way of life can no longer afford to live here. If you are a family raising children here, where are they going to be able to afford to live if they choose to stay or return to MVY? If you are a senior depending on the VTA to get around, where are the transportation pros going to live? If you are a middle-aged professional suddenly needing medical care, where are the clinicians you depend upon going to live? We have a chance to make a meaningful difference for generations to come by coming together on this crucial need. It’s not about which towns are dry or which towns have gaming. This is about the foundation of basic human needs: food, clothing and shelter. C’mon, good people of O.B., Edgartown, Vineyard Haven, West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah, let’s do the right thing for those who are having difficulty living here now, and who will live here after we have moved on.

 

Michael Bellissimo
West Tisbury