We all share that profoundly insightful skill of a Monday morning quarterback. However, we all also share a very unclear and often unreliable crystal ball.
I served for ten years in a leadership role of the Tisbury Finance and Advisory Committee. One of my mundane tasks was to write the annual FinCom report for the Town Report. Same old, same old, so I had a creative notion to compare our current town issues to those of years past. At the library I reviewed Town Reports going back to 1880. It was quite a revelation. They were all the same categorical comments for over 100 years. Nothing really changed. Too many people. Too much traffic. Schools too expensive. Criticisms of ferry service to the Vineyard. Reminds me of that oft used proverb, “Everything changes but nothing changes.”
My crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else’s but I can certainly discern two impactful issues that must be solved, that will be solved. Climate change is the scariest of all concerns and we on the Vineyard are but a grain of sand in addressing this global issue. As a motivated and erudite community, we will do our part generating renewable alternative energy sources and planning for a changing climate. However, the monster slowly destroying our very special community that must be solved, that will be solved, is our Vineyard housing crisis.
In recent time we tested the notion of a Housing Bank and it will happen because it must happen. The Housing Bank will be structured to finance housing for Vineyard working folks and seniors and to include such myriad benefits as low cost financing, down payment assistance, credit education, and development financing. Businesses on the Vineyard will no longer discriminate against those prospective employees that cannot have a residence on our Island. Our children who grow up here will be able to remain and afford home ownership. Our cost of living will cease spiraling because of readily available affordable housing. We must dispel our personal opinion of the definition of “affordable housing.” The only valid definition is housing that folks can reasonably afford.
The notion of affordable housing with deed limitations that provide for homeowners to service a mortgage loan and work to maintain a home but are precluded from making a profit when they sell their home will be recognized as wrong and unfair as everyone should have the opportunity to participate in the American dream of home ownership.
Zoning laws will change to encourage more housing for Vineyard residences and increase height limitations to combat sprawl. Zoning laws will frown on large house lots of over one acre to open up land for many more affordable homes. Smaller homes and even “Tiny Houses” will be supported with zoning.
We will realize a new and powerful attitude change by town officials in the developer entitlement process. These public boards and committees will gain great appreciation and respect for developers who are prepared to provide their financial resources, important growth, and improvements to a town. Town officials with this new enlightenment will appreciate developers with a new and welcoming “How can we help you?” attitude.
Beach Road in Vineyard Haven will transform to become one of the crown jewels of Vineyard real estate, encompassing all the elements of a working harbor complemented by many new residences with water view homes and shops to complete the equation of downtown living with less need for cars and trucks.
Homelessness, a tragic Vineyard secret, will cease to exist with new facilities to allow the homeless to realign their lives in a healthy and humanitarian environment.
I do not foresee traffic lights, parking meters, and other typical semblances of American city life so the Vineyard will always remain a very unique and special environment.
In sum, I am reminded of that wonderful old song, “I Can Dream Can’t I?”
Robert Sawyer is the author of “Massachusetts Real Estate Principles, Practice & Law,” a real estate law instructor, consultant, developer, and former county commissioner.