Perlman House offers relief for residents

Island Housing Trust holds ribbon cutting for Vineyard Haven apartments. 

Sarah Young has been living on the Island for 23 years doing the “Vineyard shuffle” and worrying about her next move. On Thursday, she and others about to move into the Perlman House apartments in Vineyard Haven breathed a sigh of relief: “I was fearful this was going to be the end of my life here [on the Island] because the rental availability is minimal, undersized, and expensive.” 

On Thursday, the Island Housing Trust (IHT) unveiled the renovations for its recently acquired Perlman House in Tisbury. The former bed and breakfast was purchased over a year ago at a discounted price of $950,000 from the Perlman family. Since then, it has undergone extensive interior renovations to create seven affordable housing apartments — three studios, three one-bedroom units, and one two-bedroom, fully accessible unit — for residents with low and moderate incomes. In order to qualify for these apartments, individuals or households must earn between 45 and 80 percent of the area median income, which is $29,000 to $56,400 for an individual. Rents are $1,468 for a studio, $1,573 for a one-bedroom; and $1,888 for a two-bedroom.

While the basic structure of the 100-year-old house was kept intact, the interior was completely rebuilt. The whole shell of the building was insulated, and new wiring, plaster, floors, and a brand-new air-source heat pump system were all added as part of the extensive project.

Out of the seven units, six are already leased out, and the last unit is certain to be filled come Oct. 1. The Dukes County Housing Authority has received 32 applications, 12 of which had been disqualified for being incomplete or ineligible. 

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi thanked the town of Tisbury and West Tisbury, local residents “who wanted to make an investment in their community directly,” and other generous donors for making the purchase and renovation of the house possible. Jordi also thanked two state agencies, the Department of Housing and Community Development and MassHousing, for providing approximately $2 million dollars in funding for the project. 

Jordi also extended a special thank-you to the town of Tisbury and its residents, who several years ago voted to allow multifamily housing construction to be authorized by local permitting, instead of having to go through the typical and more arduous state-level procedure, thereby making the completion of the project easier. 

Breeze Hodson Tonnesen, IHT communications director, stressed the importance of providing not simply affordable but also good-quality homes for residents. “The buildings are so beautiful. And knowing that the people who live in them are going to live these lives that have light and air and that the buildings are healthy and easy to maintain, and they are inexpensive to run. It’s just awesome … We are so grateful for the support of our community, and we just want to keep going.” 

Shavanáe Anderson, who has lived on the Island for 13 years and was also extended a lease for a one-bedroom apartment, was as enthusiastic as Young about her new apartment. “I’m excited, overjoyed, and relieved,” Anderson said. “It’s very difficult to find housing here, so to find something that is constant; it’s really a blessing.”