Are empty schools a housing solution?


To the Editor:

Regarding the worker housing problem (which is only getting worse as so many workers have recently been selling their properties here to more wealthy vacationers from off-Island), maybe it is time to readjust the strategy to cope with the problem more immediately.

  • Is there no way to encourage/subsidize (or badger!) people to rent their garage apartments to workers in need, especially in the off-season? We see many of these spaces going unused, I hate to say. If homeowners are afraid of tenants, then what about hospital workers needing seasonal lodging? Uncomfortable with them too? Yikes. 
  • So what spaces are there that are unused in the summer months? The schools! Would it not be possible to use these school spaces for summer housing? Have supervised space. Charge rent. Have high security deposits. Raise money for school programs or scholarships (or subsidize the Steamship snack bars to have friendlier, more reasonable prices, hahaha!). This could potentially handle many workers needing seasonal housing. Maybe the hospital needs to lobby the towns to consider this for seasonal staff.
  • Building lovely individual houses for workers through the Island Housing Trust maybe should be reoriented for less comfort and more for quantity. Maybe more toward apartment-style living with shared playgrounds. If that is considered to be insulting to workers, then don’t be ridiculous, it’s better than being homeless.

The housing problem for workers is urgent. The towns need to act soon. The quality of life here will certainly go down without needed summer (and year-round) workers.

Allan Dutton
Oak Bluffs