Affordable housing nonprofit needs housing

IHT sends out an email blast seeking housing for staff.

Philippe Jordi, executive director of Island Housing Trust, said the nonprofit developer of affordable housing is not immune to the Island's housing crisis. — Eunki Seonwoo

How bad is the Island’s housing crisis? Island Housing Trust, the Island’s leading developer of affordable housing, has put out a plea to its supporters for staff housing.

“We’ve been working very hard for more than a decade to provide safe, secure, and dignified year-round housing for our community. But, as is true for so many Island businesses and nonprofits, our own employees cannot find an affordable place to live,” an email blast signed by Breeze Hodson Tonnesen, IHT’s communications and operations director, states. “We are exploring several creative ways to help our employees with their housing needs, and are reaching out to our supporters. If you have a property that you would be interested in renting year-round to IHT, we would like to talk to you about working together to create a rental opportunity for our staff.”

The emails were sent on Tuesday.

Philippe Jordi, executive director of IHT, told The Times the nonprofit has one staff member in a short-term rental who is in need of housing, and others who commute to the Island from as far away as Boston. For any of the affordable housing projects IHT has worked on using local and state funds, their employees would have to enter the lottery like anyone else, he said.

“It’s a situation where we’re having a hard time finding people who live here and have stable housing and have the skills we’re looking for,” Jordi said.

Beyond Tuesday’s plea, Jordi said IHT is looking at the possibility of doing its own project for employee housing that wouldn’t use any public funds.

Jordi said IHT is currently working with the Vineyard Transit Authority on a potential project in Edgartown. IHT would renovate the existing house into a duplex and retain ownership of the land, with the VTA renting the apartments to employees.
“Businesses are having to become landlords, because reality is they have to have housing for staff,” Jordi said.

IHT is just the latest Island business to put out a plea for housing for staff.

Recently, the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has advertised for housing and, in a conversation with The Times, hospital CEO Denise Schepici revealed that nearly one-quarter of the hospital’s 400 staff positions remain unfilled. She said the single biggest issue for job candidates, even doctors, is the Island’s lack of housing, and the high price of the housing that does exist.

Restaurants and other tourism-related businesses routinely put out requests for staff housing, and sometimes buy real estate to provide rooms.

All of this comes as the Island towns are about to vote on a proposal brought forward by the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank. Upcoming town meetings will vote on articles that would seek a home-rule petition to create an Island housing bank. The issue is also on town election ballots.

As currently drafted, the housing bank proposal seeks a completely new revenue stream through a 2 percent real estate transfer fee, similar to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. However, unlike the Land Bank, the first $1 million of a sale price wouldn’t be subject to the 2 percent fee. The housing bank would consist of seven elected commissioners, each representing one of the Vineyard’s six towns, plus one commissioner at large. The legislation also calls for a town advisory board for each town. This is the Island’s third attempt at a housing bank.

Laura Silber, coordinator for the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank, said she saw the email from Island Housing Trust: “If this isn’t a clear indication of the housing crisis, I don’t know what is.”


  1. Thank you, MV Times, for continuing to cover the island’s housing crisis. It is very real. To readers, please have a look the Housing Bank website: If you’re a person who likes the details, check out the Warrant Article button. If you want a general overview, check out the FAQ. If you feel opposed to the Housing Bank, have a look at the “Common Misconceptions” section to see if you might have something wrong. If you still have questions – reach out to the CCMVHB folks! This is a COMMUNITY led piece of legislation. All town boards have been involved, as have all our neighbors who have been welcome on open zoom meetings. It has been so thoughtfully worked – and it is going to work. Let’s save our community. Vote for the Housing Bank! (April 12 for OB, VH, WT, Edg. April 25 for Chil, May 10 for Aq. And don’t forget Ballot box elections that follow). WE GOT US!

  2. Affordable Housing. The more you build, the more of it you need. This shows how a housing bank bill will contribute to the “crisis”, not solve it. Vote “No” and Keep Our Island Green.

    • Dan, what do you suggest we do about providing housing for hospital employees and teachers? Genuine question. I’m confused by the recent skeptical responses. The need already exists. This problem is well established and only stands to get worse as many retire.

      • The island’s zoning bylaws should be amended to make Airbnb rentals a commercial use – which would make it a violation to rent houses in a residential zoning district AND/OR institute commuter fast ferries. The latter would help with affordability rather than just housing.

      • The hospital is a large corporation that should provide housing for their own employees as they have been doing. The problem with teachers is they are woefully underpaid and that is the issue that needs to be addressed. The housing bank is a band aid approach which, as this article shows, the construction of AH only increases the demand for more AH. What more evidence do you need that the AH people don’t have a solution to this “crisis”? The housing bank bill will only make matters worse. Keep Our Island Green

    • I understand the concern about over development, but the Housing Bank proposal has actually been carefully designed to avoid that.
      There are protections written in. The Housing Bank legislation requires that a minimum of 75% of funds will be committed to previously developed land; the remaining 25% is subjected to stringent environmental requirements. The MVHB will result in little new development; a fundamental purpose will be to re-capture and re-purpose existing homes that have been lost to the short-term rental market. MVHB addresses climate issues and environmental degradation while enhancing our human resources.

    • Thank you for the replies. I’m trying to consider all options before taking a firm stance on the Housing Bank.

      I think Dan is right about teachers requiring a salary increase to live on MV. Unfortunately, that may not be enough when even relatively modest homes are going for $1 million.

      What surprised me was the skepticism about this constituting a true housing crisis and the point of view that the locals papers are contributing to a false sense of urgency. There’s so much evidence that speaks to the seriousness of this issue. I believe the hospital’s CEO and everyone who has shared how difficult it’s been to lock down a rental or fill a position.

      Commuting isn’t the best solution for those who provide certain vital services, especially when their work schedules can be irregular or their hours long. Teachers often like to be available for clubs, meetings, games, etc. Living off-Island and fully participating in school activities is a challenge, to say nothing of the personal sacrifice of time spent away from family.

      I feel everyone is going to have to compromise a little to solve this if we want to maintain high-quality care, emergency services, and education. It would be a shame to end up with too many luxuries and few necessities. We have to make living here an appealing prospect to these much-needed professionals.

  3. Years ago, it was suggested that a dormitory be built at the Business Park.
    I don’t know why this proposal wasn’t pursued, but I think it is worth pursuing now.
    Also, maybe IHT should look into building tiny houses in each tow.

    • Jean, I spoke at length with one of the Airport Commisioners about this last year. The business park is on land controlled by the FAA. The FAA does not allow “housing” on their property, though we know that hotels can exist at every airport. A 99-year lease is required at the business park and, even if a “hotel” was built there, it must be open year-round and rented on a nightly basis. So…although a reasonable idea, it would be “easier”(I’m being facetious) to buy a couple of acres of the State Forest for housing.

      • Historically there was dormitory housing at the MV Airport.
        Anyone who remembers those big shabby white buildings that existed there years ago, from a time when it was the Naval Auxiliary Air Station Martha’s Vineyard, then later on gained a life for storage purposes and other junk, as they were no longer habitable with asbestos, lead paint, etc.
        I wonder if that sets any precedent?

  4. Yes ! Please ! Small style units , whom ever builds will be a savior !!! I’m a 53 old town employee who also can’t find housing . embarassing for all .

  5. This had been a problem for decades. The current affordable housing tactics have failed. We need to redirect this funding to subsidized high speed ferries from New Bedford, Falmouth and other ports to bring workers over. In the real world employees daily commute an hour or more to a place with higher wages. The island businesses certainly pay above average wages which would be attractive to off island workers if the travel was subsidized. Every major city has subsidized transportation to bring workers in, why should we be any different?

    • I think it could be challenging to have the majority of our workforce traveling by boat, anytime the weather was inhospitable, suddenly we don’t have teachers, nurses, police, or many other important members of the Community able to do their job, on top of that I certainly want to live in a diverse community that includes all members of the community rather than just the most affluent.

    • Why would Falmouth want more Island traffic?
      Falmouth has an affordable housing crisis.
      For a person living in an adjacent town to New Bedford, with their own car, the commute time to the Island is 3.2+ hours a day pluse on Island travel time.
      The cost is $65 a day.
      Where should the high speed ferry subsidy funding come from?
      Island real estate taxes?
      Every major city has subsidized transportation for it’s citizens, as does the Island.
      The solution to the Island housing crisis is in Falmouth and New Bedford?
      They don’t think so.
      They think the beautiful people should house their own.

    • “Why should we be any different?” Because what has made the Vineyard a real community over the many decades is people living and working in the same general area. We know each other in multiple ways, as neighbors, family members, volunteers, co-workers, etc. This helps keep polarization under control: you may disagree strenuously with someone’s politics, but if your kids play together and maybe you coach soccer together or volunteer for Red Stocking, you have good reasons to get along with that person — because you know there’s more to them than politics.

      More and more workers *are* commuting from off-island, and at the end of the day they take both their money and their volunteer time off-island with them. That’s not good either for the local economy or for the after-school, social, and cultural activities that are sustained by volunteers.

      Finally, in that “real world” you refer to, people are finally waking up to the environmental and social costs of all that commuting. They get what the Vineyard and places like it have known all along: that individuals, families, and communities benefit when two or three hours a day aren’t spent in the car or even on the train. Let’s not go down a road that’s already proven to be a dead end.

      • I disagree with your comment. Many former islanders who now reside in Falmouth or in other off island communities still volunteer their time on island (I am one of those volunteers – thank you Zoom) and purchase food and other items during the work week.

        • I’m not surprised that’s true of “former islanders,” but does it hold for those who never lived here and don’t have family here? How do they develop the connections that lead to, say, a volunteer commitment?

          • Did you consider the volunteer coaches, parents, athletes and other community members who attend sporting events on island. Just one example. Another? The WH oceanographic scientists that volunteer their time to give talks at the high school. It sounds like you assume commuters don’t make day trips to the island with friends and family. A faster “life line” to the island serves all stakeholders rather than just a select group.

  6. Despite the comments of one reader, creation of affordable housing does not foster the need for more affordable housing. What it does do is provide housing for our hospital workers, restaurant workers, policemen, firemen, teachers, young families and others who cannot afford a $1,000,000 dollar starter home. It helps our contruction and service workers who cannot find rental units at any price. Our housing crisis is a people crisis. If we don’t address it we will be left with a large gated community for the super rich. Where will their service workers live? Vote Yes for the Housing Bank and help secure our future.

    • There are negative consequences to everything, including AH. This article tells you that AH is not unique and without negative consequences, intended and unintended. We should be engaging in an honest and comprehensive analysis of these consequences before pledging allegiance to all things AH. Unfortunately there is not even any debate given to this issue.

  7. Mr Larkosh already has his comfortable house. His comment reminds me of the republican mantra that the poor should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Has anyone ever tried to pull themselves up by their bootstraps?. And Ms. Tatelbaum’s good idea was put to bed some years ago when those well built WW 2 buildings were precipitously torn down to make way for the airport business park expansion.

    • Why is it you AH people always have to make it personal? My personal circumstances have nothing to do with this issue. Please know that I provide year round affordable housing to a number of Island families at my own personal expense. No one is helping me pay the mortgage on my home and no one outside of my own family helped me aquire it.

      • Dan, personal circumstances have everything to do with this issue. Housing isn’t an impersonal abstraction for people paying 50% of their income in rent, or for young people who want to raise a family in the vicinity of the kids’ grandparents, or for employers who can’t find employees, or for schools, towns, and the hospital that can’t find staff. Housing has been a crisis on this island for decades, but until it got personal for ever more people, only a handful of valiant souls took it seriously.

        It seems to me, Dan, that your personal circumstances have a lot to do with your position on this issue. You can afford to help others out, and you choose to do so: that’s great for you (and them) *personally* but does it translate into good public policy? In other words, is it good for the community as a whole? No, it’s not. And if you actually listen to some of those “AH” stories, you’ll have a better understanding of why it falls short.

        • I think my providing year round housing does help those people and the community. Everyone should do their part, but no one’s personal circumstances are relevant. That is just attacking people’s motives, not addressing the issue. It is called an “ad hominem” argument. A classic fallacy.

          • Isn’t an ad hominem a personal insult? I see none of that here. To say personal circumstances are not relevant while at the same time (if my reading is correct) saying you got help from your family to buy your place is a contradiction too big to ignore. It’s a common blind spot for those who come from a family of means. They often are unable to imagine what it is like for those who come from challenging backgrounds.

  8. Is it possible to buy houses that are for sale, remove and replace, or repair anything that needs to be updated or needs to “ go green“???? Yes, it may be pricey, but it won’t be as expensive as building new housing I don’t think. Developing housing in this way saves land from over building, creates needed housing and may encourage more people to take island jobs if business owners don’t jack the rent too high!

    Jean Tatelbaum’s ideas are good and worth investigating too.

    The only way island based housing is going to be successful is when the public gets behind “the project”!

    We’re in a different world now, especially since Covid. I hear various business people on the island saying that they are ready to open their businesses but they can’t get the help. Imagine the burden lifted from both business owners and employees alike if congregate housing were available. Let’s take a hard look at our island and realize that we are in a different place….yes, open land is important, but so are the people who live here year round and part time…. Let’s meet in the middle and get something done!

    • Yes, Donna, that would be a key goal of the Housing Bank. The legislation as proposed requires at least 75% of revenue to be used on already-developed property, deed-restricting them to be used for year-round occupancy. Please go to and scroll down a bit to see some other examples of how the funds would be used.

  9. There are some jobs that cannot be filled by commuters from off-Island, jobs that when held by people who live here make us a stronger community. These include farmers, police, teachers, nurses and healthcare workers, firemen and EMTs among others. The Housing Bank is a great step in the right direction to provide affordable housing for the people who work here. If we don’t, we will find the Vineyard is unlivable, even for those that can afford to buy.

    • What I find most troubling about this comment is that many people who work the occupations you list already commute and have been doing so for many years (decades in some cases). Affordability is greater problem than just housing.

  10. I suggest we take a look at Portsmouth NH. PORTSMOUTH – Developer Mark McNabb is proposing to build 59 downtown furnished micro units as part of his plan to “provide affordable housing for downtown employees.” The units are 500 sq’ for 2 people. The only way to keep them affordable. They are also building “workers housing”. There are many ways to house people. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    • I share a studio apartment of approximately that size with one large dog. It’s just right for the two of us. Two people in this space? I don’t think so. It might work for some, e.g., a couple who get along really well and don’t want to have kids, but as a long-term solution? No.

      I do agree that “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and that’s why I wholeheartedly support the creation of an MV Housing Bank. The multi-town, multi-generational, multi-occupational coalition that’s come together to make this happen is hands-down the most impressive organizing effort I’ve seen in my almost 37 years on the Vineyard. If you haven’t already, take a look at the coalition’s website:

  11. In the 1970’s when my family owned and ran the Beach Plum Inn, there were tons of homes to rent in the summer for staff housing and in winter as year-round residences. So much has changed since then and the Vineyard has worked so very hard to protect and preserve the island and its character. We changed zoning to limit development and the land bank bought and bought properties creating an archipelago of conservation lands to keeps me and many other people enjoying nature.

    Fast-forward to today with our growing year-round population and crushed housing market and I feel we need to talk about expectations. As a resident and tax payer of Martha’s Vineyard, I expect that we will have EMT’s to respond to emergencies, teachers to teach our kids and sufficient workers to staff the hospital, grocery stores and restaurants. I want to enjoy a good quality of life, which is why I live here, and we need people, our community, to have that happen. Is this selfish? I think we all want the same thing, so no. However, we cannot have this quality of life if we don’t have the housing opportunities to support the people. It’s not complicated. Housing + people = jobs filled and a community supported.

    My expectations go further to include a community that supports the people it need through housing. Why is this a problem? People can work 60+ hours a week and still not make enough money to pay for a home or get a rental because the opportunities are no longer there. They are GONE! The MV community, mixed on the issues of how to solve the controversial ongoing housing problem has let time and opportunities slip by at the expense of the community. If we share the expectations of having a community that support our needs for food, shelter and a high quality of life, then we need to come together on a Housing Bank because any solutions today and over the next 50 years are going to require money, lots of it. It worked for conservation; it will work for housing and there are lots of ways to use the funds including repurposing homes, and looking at new smaller zoning models for workforce housing.

    Everything we deem special and care about on Martha’s Vineyard is subsidized or supported. Everything except one of the most important things, the people. Over 200 nonprofits compete for the benevolence of individuals and grants from the state. In good times our nonprofits do well financially but housing should not be dependent on the handouts of wealthy and caring people. We have done too little and too late so far, but we can work to change that. We need a consistent year to year funding source so we can do everything we can to help prop up sandbags against the forces of our eroding housing stocks and financial pressure never before seen. We need to come together and support not only the community but our vision of what Martha’s Vineyard will look like and continue to be for generations to come. This really is no longer an option; it’s a necessity and we have the tools to enact something good for the future of the vineyard. Let’s continue to enjoy a good quality of life by making sure we have the funds and the infrastructure to support the people who support us. Vote for the housing bank! Jim Feiner, Chilmark.

  12. The Housing Bank is one solution we NEED on Island. The Housing Bank does plan to use/rebuild existing properties. The HB will be eco-friendly and focus on the total health of the Island and the people who live here.
    It’s worth a quick read to understand more:

    Most important – for all of us and our Island neighbors – is to VOTE “yes” for the Housing Bank!

  13. It doesn’t look like the private market can solve our current housing shortage unless you make tons of money. The Housing Bank is a good way to provide more affordable housing options. Let’s try this!

  14. The housing crisis has been bad for many years but has recently spiraled out of control. The major difference is the shift from year around rentals into short term rentals. Why not change zoning to restrict new homeowners from renting their properties out short term for 3-5 years? Or give a property tax credit to owners who rent year around?

  15. Rhonda I’m so happy you said that. For years I’ve been telling anyone who would listen, that we need apartment buildings. Off in the distance so all the tourists can’t see them (God forbid), we are running out of land on this small island, we need to go up! Also, the idea that an affordable house in over $2000 a month is absurd. To Moss’s comment. Cops, firefighters, cooks, landscapers, Joe Schmoe, no one, and everyone cant afford the prices for “affordable” housing here on island. Soon (if this continues) they’ll be no one left to do all the essential jobs that keeps society running. Remember that term “essential workers”? Those people who were allowed to work during the pandemic? Who risked everything to keep society running? Them.

  16. “My manicurist needs a new house. C’mon.” Any one else think thousands more people living here is a diminution of lifestyle for all? Remember last summer’s crowds? Greg Brown sings, “…living in a boom town, and it’ll boom as long as the boom has room.”

    • Really, Wayne? How about my manicurist needs ANY decent, affordable place to rent? C’mon, get real…

      • Manicurists do not contribute to the infrastructure. Why steal from wealthy people so the island can house people whose work is not essential to island life and health?

  17. SO many great ideas! The housing crisis is real and impacts all of us. The first step is educating yourself on what the Housing Bank will do
    and then vote your support at your Town Meeting and with your ballot. There are a lot of talented people on MV. If we pass this, then we can put our heads together and propose solutions that will honor our environment and provide housing for our crucial workers. This is the time to make a difference!

  18. So much care and consideration has gone into this comprehensive plan. Thank goodness this began before the out of control circumstances of these past two years.
    Such wonderful feedback here in support of this well crafted plan!
    Just look at the incredible humans who have spent countless hours dedicated to the well-being and sustainability of our community.
    We will be facing the busiest season thus far with even more people living in basements and tents.
    While many folks have commuted for years this is not a solution. Just look at our issues with the Steamship and storms that have caused out of control cancellations. Do we really want to tell patients at awaiting procedures that they must be at the mercy of the weather?
    How do we tell our kids that they will never be able to raise their own children here?
    The time is now and we must come together. Please support the Housing Bank!

  19. I’m one of those who believes that a good community can accommodate all income levels and provide housing that the community anchors can afford. That takes good planning and I’m happy to see the Vineyard begin to address the issue in a substantive manner. After all NIMBY is so 20th century.

  20. I’m going with Mr. Kozak on this one, anyone that was a kid here in the 70’s recalls the dorm housing at the airport. Though it was military based, there could be a precedent for it. Worth looking in to. This is way above my pay grade and I applaud those that are tackling it. I suggest all keep an open mind and we may find a palliative solution. My mom and dad always thought a seasonal dormitory was a good idea for the summer workforce. We all feel the pressure increasing and will have to see where this social experiment leads, if we can stay or if the workforce gets pushed out. It’s a complex issue that requires careful thought. Mr. Larkosh is a good example of people doing their part. Keep an open mind

  21. Which part of the workforce do islanders want to see have housing? The part that caters to providing services and goods to the wealthy who can afford another 2% money grab tax when they purchase a property? Or teachers and police and plumbers and medical staff who are essential and need housing?

    Do we need to house restaurant staff that promotes $30 burgers? Do we want more of those restaurants?

    If you build it, they will come: Landscapers for swimming pools, builders for McMansions, massage therapists that come to your home, restaurant staff that place the tab of over $100 per person on your table, excluding tip. Some people (not police, firefighters, cashiers at Stop and Shop) dine there once a week.

    Dan Larkosh is absolutely right. Be careful what you wish for, Martha’s Vineyard. I see nothing in the Housing Bank literature that eliminates eligibility for more landscapers and painters and mediocre artisans and bead stringers, even if they grew up here and have grandparents on island. What entitles a person with a nonessential worklife, to live on Martha’s Vineyard… if it requires mooching off others to do so? The idea of “so what, they’re wealthy and can afford more island mooching” is ugly.

    When islanders figure out the island cannot base its survival on continuing to prioritize servicing the wealthy population’s “needs”, wants, and whims, then talk about dormitories for doctors and nurses and bed pan carriers. Sheesh. When islanders figure out that not everyone gets to live their dream in a place they can’t afford while providing no essential contribution to, then talk about this money grab. Community is anywhere and everywhere, including in the projects ofc island. Life is tough and tough decisions and sacrifices have to be made.

    How crowded can August get?

    The Housing Bank is a Robin Hood or “Rob Peter to pay Paul” mentality. The out of whack priorities of how to house people whose jobs make the housing problems worse, is insane. How big is this island anyway?

    Meanwhile, the pot business is doing great. And Island Grown Initiative figured out how to expand (including housing) without stealing or gouging anyone.

    The Housing Bank is a BANK. It will lend, borrow, sell, buy, give credit, go after defaulters—- after mooching off the backs of the wealthy this island loves to hate (while building their next landscaped swimming pool and selling them the useless stuff they made with their own little hands. Is this how communism works, lol?

    Save your personal attacks. I don’t care.

  22. What percentage of year round rentals is occupied by people who make their living off folks with expendable cash, providing goods and services (amenities) that are not in any way essential to the island? $50 bouquets, $12 loaves of bread, $35 small chickens, $16 pieces of cheese at a farmers market? Who buys this stuff regularly and where does a baker of a $12 loaf of bread live, anyway? Am I supposed to care if a guy who owns 5 restaurants can’t hire enough staff? I don’t. Why doesn’t the Housing Bank at least address this issue as they stick their hands into the pockets of rich people?

    Do home owners who need to sell really want to see their beloved home go to someone who owns a swimming pool business? The amenities/whims providers who rent year round may be lovely people who’ve lived and worked here for decades, but they contribute to promoting the off-balanced nature of the community now. We don’t need them, and we certainly don’t need more. I’m not needed here anymore either. When middle income people need to sell and move away to somewhere more affordable, who’s left? The wealthy and those who cater to them. The HB makes no distinction between caterers and teachers that I can see.

    I like a lot of the thought and careful consideration that went into this scheme— except for indiscriminate use of “needing housing” and the funding mishegas that in the end will lead to a worsening discrepancy between the haves and have-nots. And more swimming pools and wastewater with nowhere to go. An agency with the power of a god to provide housing to landscapers and builders and restaurant staff is a terrible plan for the future. The best thing about the HB is that it dissolves in 30 years, unlike the greedy, wealthy Land Bank.

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