In 2005, one of our local papers ran a story: “The housing bank initiative has cleared its first major regional hurdle, now that all six towns have thrown their support behind the idea, which aims to create a bank of money for affordable housing using a transfer fee on most real estate transactions. The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is the model …”
Despite overwhelming support from voters in all six towns and the Vineyard real estate community, the effort failed in the state legislature due to lobbying by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which opposed the concept of transfer fees. At the time, the M.V. median home sale price was approximately $500,000.
That was then. This is now.
Median home sale prices are over $1 million; our pandemic-inspired real estate boom has fueled major increases. The need is greater than ever.
Meanwhile, there is a dramatically different political climate in the commonwealth, and the position of statewide realtors appears to have softened. Nantucket, Provincetown, Boston, Somerville, Brookline, and Concord have all passed home rule petitions to create housing banks. All are based on transfer fees, like the M.V. Land Bank. A coalition of these communities has formed — and we’re joining them, to begin the process of establishing an Island-wide housing bank modeled after our successful MV Land Bank.
We are the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank (CCMVHB). Our group of several dozen is broadly representative of the Island community. Among our ranks you’ll find selectpersons, town affordable housing committee members, county commissioners, business leaders, realtors, young professionals, housing activists, and those in need of housing. To date, we have formed a steering committee co-chaired by Julie Fay, former Martha’s Vineyard Community Services executive director, and Arielle Faria, current administrator of the Edgartown affordable housing committee and resident of the new Scott’s Grove apartments in West Tisbury. They are supported by a diverse cross section of young and old Islanders from every town.
To meet the goals of the housing production plans created by the six towns, we need to secure stable housing for hundreds of Island families, couples, and individuals, using both existing housing stock and new development. This work will require a long-term funding mechanism.
With some differences, the new housing bank will be modeled after the existing M.V. Land Bank. The most substantive divergences are likely to be 1) that the housing bank will respond to proposals and grant funds for projects, rather than purchasing and managing property, and 2) the exemption level will be significantly higher than the Land Bank’s. As a new transfer fee paid by the buyers, no identifiable group of people (besides the pool of unidentified future buyers) will be adversely affected — and because this would be an entirely new funding source, it would not tap into or alter existing funding streams, like the short-term rental tax or Community Preservation Act funds.
During the first half of 2021, we will meet with affordable housing committees, select boards, finance committees, and planning boards in all six towns. We will form housing bank committees in each town, and design the new housing bank (decide the amount of transfer fee, home sales that will be exempt, who will be served, and how the funds will be used). In the time that follows, we expect to create warrant articles in all six towns and bring them to spring 2022 town meetings. If we are successful, we will bring an M.V. Housing Bank home rule petition to the state legislature, where its fate will be determined by our elected representatives. At that point, if it passes, our job will be done, and those empowered to run the M.V. Housing Bank will take over.
We are determined to make this happen and passionately committed to a highly inclusive deliberative process. The M.V. Land Bank, which was the result of an effort just like this one, has successfully enhanced the Island’s conservation and public access to land for the past 30 years. It works. We need an Island-wide housing bank to complement it. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Together, we can get this done. E-mail email@example.com to get involved, and/or follow along at @ccmvhb on Instagram.
Julie Fay and Arielle Faria are co-chairs of the 13-member CCMVHB steering committee.