West Tisbury revives Housing Bank idea


The West Tisbury Housing Bank committee is proposing a warrant article for the town’s annual town meeting next spring that will focus on establishing community and workforce housing in town.

The committee is made up of at-large members Michael Bellissimo and Sam Hall, finance committee member Douglas Finn, affordable housing committee member Jefrey Dubard, planning board member Matt Merry, and selectman Cynthia Mitchell.

In 2019, a group of Island stakeholders asked each Island town to form a Housing Bank, using funds from the recently passed short-term rental tax. The group of advocates secured articles on each town’s warrant, but was ultimately denied by voters in every Island town.

As a result, a committee was formed to make a recommendation back to the town whether it should form its own Housing Bank. One of the first things the committee did was look at the town’s 2016 housing production plan (HPP), which had a goal of 170 units over 20 years, roughly 10 units per year.

The committee also looked at House bill 3637, which was petitioned by State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and State Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, to allow Nantucket to impose real estate transfer fees for affordable and workforce housing. The bill is currently in committee.

“We still believe the success of the Housing Bank on the Island really ought to be Islandwide,” Bellissimo said. “But at this point we haven’t had any other towns join us.”

The Housing Bank’s work would be different from the existing affordable housing committee because it would look at other community housing needs. “What we’re talking about is the idea of community housing that’s affordable for workers, seniors, and others who fall above the affordable housing guidelines,” Bellissimo said.

The proposed warrant article aims to create a town-based Housing Bank that acts somewhat independently to provide for the acceptance of money, research, and investment into community and workforce housing.

Mitchell said it was good to get the discussion going in advance of annual town meeting next spring.

Selectman Kent Healy said town zoning should be changed to allow for affordable housing, but said he was “generally not in favor” of a Housing Bank.

No decision or vote was taken on the proposed article, but selectmen said it was the beginning of several discussions they would have on the subject.