Harbor Homes of M.V. secures property

Vineyard Haven house will provide rooms for six individuals ‘too poor for affordable housing.’

This Vineyard Haven home was purchased by nonprofit Harbor Homes of Martha's Vineyard to give rooms to those on the Island who cannot currently afford housing. — George Brennan

A Vineyard Haven house has been purchased by a nonprofit aimed at giving those without a permanent place to live — in Island vernacular, “couch surfers” — a hand up.

Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard, a nonprofit that brings together housing advocates and Island clergy, purchased 103 Tashmoo Ave. from Tashmoo Housing LLC for $800,000, according to county records. Listed as a two-family in Tisbury assessor records, the property is assessed at $481,000, and was purchased by Tashmoo Housing in June for $575,000.

The house was renovated, and is move-in ready for six individuals who are on the Island’s affordable housing lists, but who can’t meet the minimum requirements to qualify for housing, the Rev. Chip Seadale, a member of the Harbor Homes of M.V. board and the rector at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, told The Times.

The house will offer individual bedrooms, but the kitchen, common space, and bathrooms are shared. The house has a wraparound deck, and a smaller deck on the second floor. Tashmoo Avenue is located off Franklin Street, and is about a half-mile from Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

“It’s not a homeless shelter,” Seadale said. “It’s group housing. It’s going to be for people who need a place to live, have jobs, have income, but can’t qualify for affordable housing.”

Harbor Homes of M.V. is taking applications now on its website, and hopes to have individuals begin moving in within 60 days, Seadale said. He called it a “home run for the Island.”

Rent is $425. Applicants must have an income at or below 30 percent of the median family income for Dukes County.

“It’s really exciting. We’ve been talking to the various boards and commissions. We’re finding there is a high level of support. It’s very affirming to us,” Seadale said.

The house was paid for with a combination of donations and grants from Community Preservation funds, a surcharge on property taxes which can be used for a variety of things including affordable housing. Island Housing Trust (IHT) provided some financing, as well as a bridge loan from its Make It Happen Fund, Philippe Jordi, executive director of IHT, told The Times. IHT is leasing the land, and Harbor Homes of MV owns the house. IHT has also committed to being the long-term steward of the property, and will hold the restrictions on the property to assure that it’s used for affordable housing should something happen to Harbor Homes of M.V., Jordi said.

David Rosenberg, owner of the Edgar Hotel in Edgartown and a principal in Tashmoo Housing, worked with IHT as it got commitments to make the purchase and in providing a bridge loan, Jordi said. “He was ready to sell it to a family, which is his way of giving back,” Jordi said. Instead, he worked with IHT and Harbor Homes of M.V. “He was a patient seller,” Jordi said.

Karen Tewhey, president of the Harbor Homes of M.V. board, said the house underwent extensive renovations before it was purchased, including a new roof, siding, windows, flooring, heating, and cosmetic updates.

We are excited to be partnering with [Island Housing Trust] to provide a housing option for Islanders who have been considered too poor for affordable housing,” Tewhey wrote in an email to The Times. “Our goal is to ensure that every Vineyarder has safe, legal, affordable housing. This is congregate housing, which is the most cost-effective option.”

According to its website, Harbor Homes of M.V. began searching for a way to help the Island’s homeless in 2013 after the death of a homeless man from hypothermia on the Island. According to the site, in 2017, 120 individuals self-reported to Housing Assistance Corp. that they were homeless or imminently at risk of being homeless on the Island. “In addition, in a one-year period, 2016–2017, five (5) Island residents who requested shelter died of health or mental health issues exacerbated by being homeless,” the site states. “For the past four winters, approximately twenty-five (25) chronically homeless adults have taken advantage of the winter shelter, Houses of Grace, that is operated by the Island clergy. These individuals have been homeless for at least one year, and have complex profiles and documented physical or emotional disabilities.”

Seadale said as part of the housing, there will be an educational component for tenants on the social services available on the Island. “We’re very optimistic about this,” he said. 

He was clear that this is just a start. Harbor Homes of M.V. is looking for other properties on the Island, and is working with IHT as well, he said.

In her email, Tewhey wrote that the 103 Tashmoo Ave. location would be for men, with the next house for women and young children. “We want to acquire properties on the Island and preserve them for residents of the Vineyard,” Tewhey wrote.

Seadale, who has been active in sponsoring warming shelters on the Island, reiterated the point that this reaches those not served by other subsidized housing and rental assistance.

“This will really change some lives and give people an opportunity,” Seadale said. “This will benefit Islanders — it’s a good thing.”