Housing bank —  an opportunity for Martha’s Vineyard


At our upcoming town meetings, Islanders will be able to vote on the future of affordable, year-round housing on Martha’s Vineyard. The outcome of these meetings — of the vote for the creation of the Martha’s Vineyard housing bank — has the potential to protect and strengthen the Island community. Without a housing bank intended to secure housing for year-round Islanders and their families, I fear we will not recognize our Island in years to come.

For many years, Martha’s Vineyard was a healthy mix of summer and year-round residents, of affluent and middle-class families, of multiple generations able to continue to set down roots.

That reality has been changing. We can all see the effects of our present housing crisis.

There are few houses to buy or rent, and those on the market are not affordable to the great majority of year-round residents, including teachers, police officers, nurses, carpenters, and many more.

Without a solution, it seems likely that year-round neighborhoods will become seasonal; our schools will have many fewer students; and ferries will be full of our essential workers arriving from the mainland. Our children who would like to settle down here and raise their families will find it increasingly challenging to do so. The mix of people that we value as part of our Island community will slowly disappear.

While the details of a housing bank are complex, the underlying premise is clear: to help fund the purchase and construction of houses available both for rental and ownership by year-round families of varied incomes. The housing bank would fund itself not by taxation of homeowners but by a 2 percent fee of the purchase price of houses costing more than $1 million. This fee would not apply to the first $1 million of the purchase price. Each participating town would elect a commissioner to the housing bank, and they would set and adjust policies.

For more details on the policies and structure of the housing bank, please review the Coalition to Create the MV Housing Bank website at ccmvhb.org, in particular the sections “frequently asked questions,” “common misconceptions,” and the summary of the warrant article.

In order to establish a housing bank, it must receive a supporting vote at our upcoming town meetings. Meetings can be lengthy, and attending challenging, especially for young families. However, this is one of those town meetings where the outcome will help to shape our Island for years to come. Please plan to attend your town meeting and vote at your town election, and please consider voting for the housing bank. We have the opportunity to create housing for year-round residents and to help build a better future for the next generation of Islanders.

Dr. Henry Nieder is a family doctor on Martha’s Vineyard, and a member of the steering committee for the Coalition to Create the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank.


  1. My husband and I started vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard in 1985. Twelve years ago, we were fortunate to buy a second home on the island, which we do not make available for rent. While we pay our fair share of taxes and contribute to the island community in many ways, we recognize that second-home ownership is a primary contributor to the shortage of affordable housing for year-round and seasonal workers with moderate or low incomes. At the same time, we also believe that the long-term social and economic health of MV depends on a thriving year-round community and an adequate seasonal workforce living on-island. For that reason, we have supported Island Housing Trust for many years and think the IHT team has done an amazing job providing affordable rental and ownership housing opportunities on the island. The benefit of the Housing Bank is that it will provide the island with a dedicated source of revenue to help fund not only more IHT projects, but also other initiatives based on different models, including those intended to address the affordable housing issues faced by people and families with higher incomes than IHT serves (e.g., two income households that include nurses, teachers, policemen, firemen, small business owners, etc.). I joined the Coalition Council for the Housing Bank early on and attended several of the meetings held to discuss the terms of the proposed legislation. I observed first-hand the incredible amount of work and thought that went into crafting this proposed law. No solution will be perfect, but many of the concerns raised in some comments to other recently published articles regarding the Housing Bank were considered and researched by the Housing Bank Steering Committee with changes to the warrant article made along the way to minimize or address those issues. I agree with Dr. Nieder that establishment of a Housing Bank is important for the future of the island. My husband and I cannot vote on the island, but if we could, we would vote “YES” for the Housing Bank.

    • This is Massachusetts, as a homeowner you certainly can vote on Island if you want to.
      Gosnold has at least 40 voters who spend less than 32 days a year on island. most of them own no real estate.
      A number of couples split their voter registrations.
      Awhile back a husband was a Gosnold Selectman and his wife was a Lincoln Selectwoman.
      You should be able to vote where you want to want to vote as long as you have some kind of current tie.
      Nothing keeps renters from voting, or owners.

  2. There are 3 reasons why I will not vote for the Housing Bank.
    1. We have a glut of people working in the building and “amenities” trades. Many commute but would like to live here. Eligibility for getting help from the HB is the same for screened porch builders as it is for teachers. Without banning any applicants who are not essential to a self reliant infrastructure of the island, I cannot support another money grab from our wealthy new home buyers. Robin Hood sounds good on paper, until another house builder, maybe a McMansion builder, benefits from the HB and another teacher, cop, or nurse leaves the island.
    2. It’s another bureaucratic bank, not unlike the Land Bank, with the potential to misuse funds, grant favors, stray from its intended goals as it gets going with money and power, exactly as the LB has done. The HB does dissolve in 30 years, though.
    3. We live largely in a tourist, visitor-driven economy. The HB makes no judgement or even recognition of how this contributes to our housing issues. This important issue of our economic dependency is absent from all HB proposals and acknowledgements, as earnest, well-intentioned, and thorough as it otherwise is.

    • Who gets to decide what is essential?
      Some people will think that purveyors of Trump Rally Merch is essential for the preservation of democracy.

  3. At the suggestion of many commenters, letters, and articles, I have visited the housing bank website. In my opinion, the housing bank has its blinders on and does not address many critical aspects of the affordability issues. For example, why has the idea of changing the zoning bylaws, specifically three acre zoning and identifying weekly rental properties as a commercial use, not been seriously explored. Arguably, both have seriously contributed to the affordability issue. If affordability is a crisis, why are the housing bank members not deploying every possible tool to help create solutions such as a WH fast commuter ferry? How will legal challenges be handled and paid? Why does the housing bank appear to support a caste system where commuting is considered failure and those individuals/families are not seen as contributing to the community? Lastly, stable housing and affordable housing are not synonymous. Affordability for many on the island remains a huge issue for many with stable housing.

    • How much in the way of subsidies will your fast ferry cost?
      Will the subsidy come from Island real estate taxes or will the whole state be able to feel the pain?

  4. I share many of the concerns that Jackie expressed above. However, I am planning to vote Yes. Housing is clearly a problem on the Island. There are no perfect solutions. The Housing Bank will achieve funding that will have a positive impact on the problem. I am hopeful that we will explore other avenues to alleviate the housing problem such as exceptions to zoning laws, accessory apartments, and additional funding sources. Not unlike affordable health care and climate change, I think it is better to do something rather than doing nothing while trying to fashion a better solution.

    • The perfect solution to the Island’s housing problem is to make it someone else’s problem.
      Falmouth seems to be very popular with many commenters.

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