Housing committee wants second look at rental funds

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— Shelby Regan

At their Tuesday meeting, the Oak Bluffs affordable housing committee expressed interest in taking another look at how to use the town’s short-term rental tax collections.

“When it comes to the housing bank,” said committee chair Mark Leonard, “state legislators are asking, ‘why aren’t you using the short-term rental tax to support affordable housing?’”

Leonard said that after suggesting to the Oak Bluffs finance committee that a portion of the short-term rental tax collected by the town be allocated to housing year round residents — as other towns in Massachusetts have been doing — the response was one of hesitation.

Although the finance committee is “somewhat supportive” of using rental taxes for affordable housing, the select board, Leonard said, has been “noncommittal.” 

Leonard said the committee, in support of using just a percentage of the millions of dollars being collected by the town for providing affordable housing to Islanders, hopes to re-engage the town and its voters in discussions on how to distribute the extra flow of cash.

Town administrators and select boards have been reluctant to use the funds generated by short term rental tax, ever since the short-term rental tax bill which was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker and put into effect July 2019. 

Since the first annual tax collection report in 2021, the six Martha’s Vineyard town’s have collectively amassed more than $10 million in short term rental fees, which then are entered into each municipality’s general fund. 

Oak Bluffs, with the Island’s second highest collection next to Edgartown, has garnered nearly $3 million dollars in the last two years, with no current plans on allocating the money to any particular initiative. 

Committee member Pete Bradford recalled that when the first housing bank was proposed several years ago the concept of using a percentage of the rental tax for housing funds was considered, but was quickly dismissed.

“It wasn’t supported by the selectmen,” said Bradford, as the board expressed interest in waiting to see how much revenue would be collected, and how consistent the influx would be

“The reality is, that we’re losing our rental stock to short-term rentals,” said Bradford. “The only way” to realistically secure more long term rentals, he said, is through funding — which the rooms tax is capable of doing —  as it would be unlikely to effectively “stop short term rentals.”

Later, in a call with The Times, Leonard said the committee supports the idea of using the tax for either the future housing bank, or the town’s housing trust, which has been somewhat depleted after a number of other housing projects.  

The housing trust, he said, does not have an income, and relies on donations; Even 10, 15 percent of the total short-term rental tax collected, Leonard said, gives the committee something to work with in order to provide housing to at least one more family on the Island.

7 COMMENTS

  1. It is one thing for the housing trust to be relying on donations and keeping the salaries of their employees a secret. It is an entirely different subject when you start collecting taxpayer money. Recently published brochure showing the so-called financial books did not disclose any salaries and where the money goes. I for one would like to see all the information of the housing trust as it’s getting to be another good organization with too much overhead to be throwing taxpayer dollars at.

  2. I agree and while they are at it, expose all the rest of the low income housing organizations for their not opening their books for all to see either. We give CPA money, local tax breaks, etc and we see nothing but more construction and more people saying there is not enough housing.

  3. I concur..There seems to be some overlap of what exactly each Non Profit Housing offices does. Perhaps several staff positions can be trimmed down not increase with more fundings Time to consolidate

  4. How about the approve more building projects and update the OB wastewater system in to allow for increased density? The island needs more supply of housing that is only way it housing will become more affordable. We need to address the 2 main obstacles of increasing supply.

  5. Short Term Rentals are a business operation. Enforce zoning bylaws and do not allow in residential zoned areas. Restrict STRs to Island residents only!! This has created the rental housing shortage. Enough is enough. Greed rules once again. So much for quality of life on MVI.

  6. All rentals are a business operation, be it ten years or one day.

    STRs have created a rental shortage?

    Enough is enough?
    Is it time to limit the number of people allowed to be on the Island?

    Improve the quality of Island life, leave, we have too many people.

    All those greedy people who want housing…

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