Some would say that the defining characteristics of a successful community are its natural environment, its access to healthy food, and its opportunities for fitness and wellness. Martha’s Vineyard has all of these in spades, both effective farming practices and the availability of open space for public use and enjoyment.
There are also less glamorous, but even more critical, services that make up a successful community. These services are delivered by people who have undergone rigorous training to provide healthcare, education, and safety. Unfortunately, affordable housing on the Island is not always available to these people.
Three years ago, the Island Housing Trust (IHT) set an ambitious goal they called Vision 2020 to create 100 new homes on the Island for 300 residents and their families by 2020. According to Executive Director Philippe Jordi, they’re already more than halfway there. Their latest success, the renovation of the former Hanover House Inn in Vineyard Haven, was done in collaboration with the M.V. Hospital to provide year-round housing for employees in need (such as Certified Nurse Assistants and technicians) and with the Martha’s Vineyard Bank to provide creative financing.
Jordi says that the key to achieving this goal was to think differently about housing and how it is financed. He says the IHT is always “looking for new and innovative ideas to make a greater impact” and his team found an organization based in Seattle with similar goals which had created the Seattle Future Fund. This became the inspiration for IHT’s MV Future Financing.
This type of project encourages individuals and foundations to invest within their communities by participating in a larger impact loan. This is often called social impact investing and the loan generated is meant to achieve both social and environmental benefits while generating a modest financial return. In the case of MV Future Financing, six investors have committed $50,000 to $1.15 million for a total of $1.8 million over the next ten years. One investor, Wendy Wolf, says “I am participating because affordable housing on this island is at crisis proportions… Workers of all types can’t afford housing as there is an affordability gap between the price of houses and wages.”
The collective loan, serviced by the MV Bank, will provide long-term, low interest (2.5%) financing for the IHT’s Hanover House. James Anthony, President and CEO of MV Bank remarked that the bank is excited to be involved with this initiative, because “we believe the lack of housing for community workers like hospital staff, teachers, and other public servants is a threat to the Island’s way of life.” He went on to say “Collaborating with IHT has been fun. Applying our innovations and creativity to the challenge of affordable housing is energizing and developing a solution for the Island community is incredibly fulfilling.”
The Hanover House, after extensive renovations that included a new heating and cooling system, updated finishes, and shared common rooms, now houses more than 15 year-round income-qualified hospital employees. The main house includes twelve individual bedrooms with private bathrooms that share common living, kitchen, and dining areas. Next to the main house are three one-bedroom apartments. The renovations were able to take advantage of the latest energy efficient HVAC technology that was funded through energy rebates from Cape Light Compact.
“The opportunity came at the perfect time as I’d been facing housing insecurity,” Barbara Flanders, a Technician at the hospital said, “and I really appreciate how it’s all worked out with Island Housing Trust and the hospital.
Jordi says MV Future Financing has been a tremendously successful model. He plans on applying what has been learned to build new partnerships and projects that offer opportunities for other residents and foundations to make investments in the Island community. “Public funding for affordable and workforce housing alone will not solve our housing crisis, so we’re looking for new and innovative ways to raise the low-cost capital we need to scale up our development pipeline.”
It takes time to build the support for changes like this to happen, but new and innovative ideas can result in measurable progress. Thankfully, the willingness of private investors and foundations to embrace IHT’s MV Future Financing has made a difference for some of the people we all depend on in our Island community.
More information and a FAQ can be found at www.ihtmv.org.