Commission supports Housing Bank

Letter sent to state legislature supports transfer fee legislation and a future Housing Bank.

Change in median single-family sales prices for Island towns in the MVC’s housing needs assessment. — MVC

Updated July 19 

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission unanimously approved sending a letter to the Massachusetts state legislature in support of real estate transfer-fee legislation to fund affordable housing projects and the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank (CCMVHB).

There are currently three bills in the legislature this session which seek to establish some type of transfer fee. 

“The commission is acutely aware of the severity of the Martha’s Vineyard housing crisis, its negative impact on our economy and community infrastructure, and the need for reliable long-term funding Island-wide to implement housing solutions,” the letter reads in part.

The coalition is the third attempt at a housing bank on Martha’s Vineyard, and comes amid an ever-growing affordable housing crisis on the Island. 

While nothing is set in stone, the idea is to model a housing bank after the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, and collect a 2 percent transfer fee on real estate transactions, paid by the buyer, but only on all dollars above $1 million. A home purchased for $999,999 would be exempt from the fee, while a home purchased for $1.2 million would be taxed 2 percent on $200,000.

The housing bank could receive proposals; provide funding for housing infrastructure; provide shared-appreciation equity loans; and purchase, receive, hold, lease, grant, and sell property.

The governance would consist of seven commissioners — one elected member from each town, plus a state appointee.

There would also be six community advisory boards, one from each town, with seven appointed members from the select boards, conservation commissions, affordable housing committees, health departments, planning boards, and zoning boards.

Housing bank governance would review proposals from organizations, individuals, and public entities to make sure they meet requirements and serve all types of applicants.

S868 and H1377 are the Senate and House versions of the same bill, both with identical language. Those bills set the exemption threshold at the state median, which is $503,000. It gives localities the option to raise their exemption threshold. H2895 is a bill introduced by state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, and state Rep. Elizabeth Malia, D-Boston, that sets a threshold at $1 million.

“Each of the authors of the bills are supporting the other bills, because at this point we don’t know what the legislature has an appetite for,” CCMVHB campaign coordinator Laura Silber said. “Either bill would work for Martha’s Vineyard.”

Commissioners all voiced support for the initiative.

“This is a community problem that affects all of us,” commissioner Doug Sederholm said.

The commission also agreed to include in the letter a line that there was unanimous support for the letter to be sent to the legislature.

“A variety of local initiatives are underway in each of our six towns, but adequate funding is a major obstacle to creating the much-needed housing in a quantity that would make an impact,” the letter reads. “A significant funding source, beyond what is currently available to the towns, is an absolute necessity if the Island is to meaningfully address the low- and moderate-income housing shortage.”

John Abrams, a member of the steering committee for CCMVHB, said the endorsements were a key part of the coalition’s efforts. “These endorsements are really important. We’re collecting them from all kinds of organizations, from businesses, from town boards, from wherever we can, because this is what demonstrates to the legislature that there’s full support for it locally, and that the need is there,” Abrams said.

In an email statement to The Times, CCMVHB co-chair Julie Fay wrote the MVC’s decision was clear. “The MVC’s unanimous endorsement of the proposed transfer fee bills and CCMVHB is a clear statement to the legislature that the individual MVY towns cannot be left to bear the financial burden of addressing our escalating housing crisis alone: that a significant new revenue stream is essential to stabilizing our year-round housing situation. The future of our community and the health of our Island economy rests on our ability to effectively address our housing crisis through Island-wide cooperation and problem solving,” Fay said.

In other business, the commission voted to not concur on an AT&T wireless project to reconfigure and replace existing telecommunication poles and equipment at three locations, closed a public hearing on expanding the Airport Business Park to include five new parcels totaling 8.78 acres, and approved the a 30,000-gallon propane tank, for a total of 80,000 gallons to be stored onsite with 110 gallons of methanol at Star Propane.

Updated with statement from Julie Fay. — Ed.


  1. In other business, the commission voted to not concur on an AT&T wireless project to reconfigure and replace existing telecommunication poles and equipment at three locations.

    I’m sure there are thousands of us with only 1 bar of service from ATT since May who might disagree with this decision. In terms of our island telecommunications network with the influx of thousands of new residents who can now work and live here it’s only a matter of time before everyone
    begins to experience the same problems.

    • Jean that decision is going to help you by not concur means AT&T can move forward quicker. It is the one correct move the MVC has made lately.

  2. A transfer tax, in addition to being fundamentally unjust to Vineyard homeowners, will create an unsustainable rate of housing development on MV. This overdevelopment will have a disastrous impact on our natural environment, aesthetics and quality of life. Keep Our Island Green is a group of Islanders who support the protection and preservation for the natural environment. KOIG opposes the transfer tax. Interested Islanders are welcome to join us.

    • Keep Our Island Green focuses is explicitly an anti-Housing Bank front group, and ignores the environmental damage being done by the rampant destruction and development of for-profit mansions all over the island.

      • Baloney.
        From Keep Our Island Green:
        “This group is currently opposed to the imposition of a transfer tax and the creation of a governmental bureaucracy for the development of housing on Martha’s Vineyard. While we do not dispute the need for affordable housing, the implementation of a tax and the creation of a new bureaucracy to develop and build housing on the island is short sighted and anti-environmental. Affordable housing should be built, but on a case-by-case basis, in adherence with local zoning and without the use of taxpayer funds. Turning control over from the local town boards to a bureaucracy in control of vast sums of money will have disastrous results for the environment. It will also interfere with and impede more sustainable, equitable and wiser housing opportunities. Interested members of the Vineyard community and environmental advocates are invited to join.”

      • Please stop spreading misinformation about our group. We do not oppose a housing bank. We oppose the tax and the damage to the environment done by unsustainable rates of development. It is not the size of a home, it is the density of the development. Your comment is an appeal to hypocrisy, a classic fallacy.

  3. I find it funny that Douglas Sederholm and the rest of the commissioners had an opportunity to actually support affordable housing in Edgartown and they turned it down. It seems they are more talk than action. The Meetinghouse subdivision would’ve provided 14 affordable condos, $1 million in cash, and a deed restriction that included a transfer fee of 1% on lots that were sold in the Future. Shame on them to pretend to be in favor of affordable housing when they had an opportunity and did nothing. Shame on them to pretend to be in favor of affordable housing when they had an opportunity and did nothing. Turning down the Meetinghouse development certainly hurt the cause for the year-round population and housing.

  4. When will these Commissions get the quality of leadership they deserve.
    It seems like that everyone with a keyboard could do a much better job……

  5. Just keep adding taxes and taxes. Who do you think really pays? The seller simply raises his price, so the Buyer’s pay again. Use your brain, not the power of taxes. There are vast areas near the airport that affordable apartment housing could be built on.

    • True, paying $20,000 on a two million dollar house (2% after the first million is the current proposal) is really going to do a lot of damage to the poor real estate market!

      • The $20,000 would not be paid by the real estate market. It would be paid directly by the home owner, a real person. Did you think that 2 million dollars from a home sale ends up in the pocket of the seller? It doesn’t. Many, many hands are grabbing for a piece of pie and for all kinds of reasons including:

        Big mortgage;
        Capital gains;
        Multiple owners of a family home;
        Forced sale;
        Move to assisted living;
        Unpaid back taxes to Uncle Sam;
        Forced move for elderly;
        House rich, income poor;
        Death of owner, multiple poor heirs.
        Septic, termites, roof issues, etc that must be repaired by owner before closing;
        5-6% of sale price for broker fee;
        Etc, etc.

        The pocketed proceeds are very often entirely necessary to the seller.

        Ignorance of what it takes to own and maintain a home on Martha’s Vineyard, ignoring reasons people need to sell, and obliviousness to what it costs to hire someone to pack up, sell, leave and arrange for new housing (buy, rent, or assisted living) is no reason to mooch off these people who need every cent of their home sale after closing costs and lawyer fees. We need affordable housing, but not on the backs of those whose life savings are in their homes but need to live somewhere more affordable. Retired, fixed income people who’ve paid to support the community for as long as they’ve owned property here, much more than house sitters and renters, cannot be burdened further by an unwarranted tax. $20,000 IS a lot of money and those who cannot afford to live on the island are not entitled to take from others who need to leave. It’s an unfair tax.

  6. The housing bank is one of the few elements aimed at keeping the island alive. It’s that simple.

  7. I think what Mark is saying is that the tax will not alleviate affordable housing issues, it will make them worse. Mark is right. Your tax will make it harder to buy a home in the free market. It will create an underclass of people dependent on your housing bureaucracy. This is not true home ownership by any means.

  8. Dan what about the two acres across the street from your office on Meshakut Road that was clear of every single tree to build three trophy houses that’s what’s ruining the island not a transfer tax to help islanders .

    • James I am not familiar with the details of that project in terms of density, and how it will be landscaped upon completion. It will connect to a wastewater treatment facility, a plus. It was built with private funding. It was approved by the town. However, I would be against a tax on the equity from my home and other Vineyard homeowners nest eggs to fund such developments.

  9. The mooching mentality of certain islanders is an unreasonable solution to the housing crises.

  10. Its a miracle. I agree with everything Jackie has posted here. It simply cannot happen again.

  11. It is 2 percent to the land bank already, plus another 2 percent over the $1 million threshold.

    So a two million dollar home is $40k ($2million x 2 percent) for the Land Bank, plus $20k for the anticipated Housing Bank.

    The total is $60k, just want to be clear about the proposed cost.

  12. No more taxes going into the hands of Vineyard cronies! Does anyone in their right mind believe that these new taxes will actually help the problem? So now a new buyer has to pay a 2% land bank fee and and another 2% fee?!? (yes, I know its over $1M, but what decent place is under a $1M on the island these days!). This is ridiculous, we can’t tax our way out of our this housing problem. How about actually approving affordable housing for the island and not robbing more taxpayers!

Comments are closed.