Affordable veterans housing coming to Oak Bluffs

3.4 acres of town-owned property on Bellevue Avenue in Oak Bluffs will be used to develop affordable housing for veterans. — Eunki Seonwoo

Martha’s Vineyard Community Services announced 12 affordable housing units for veterans are planned to be built in Oak Bluffs. 

The possibility of developing affordable veteran housing off County Road was first discussed during a September 2021 Oak Bluffs select board meeting, although some concerns about the site and costs were raised later on. Demographic information from an Oak Bluffs affordable housing committee study that was presented during the initial meeting estimated that 950 veterans live on Martha’s Vineyard, and 70 percent of them were over the age of 64. Of those veterans, 38 percent have a disability. 

The Martha’s Vineyard veterans transitional and affordable housing committee, a group consisting of veterans and civilians collaborating to make affordable housing for veterans on the Island, has worked for the past couple of years so this initiative can be fruitful. 

Community Services veterans outreach worker and advocate Robert Tankard, who also served in the U.S. Army, said this “is a much-needed facility.” According to Tankard, there was some uncertainty regarding the County Road title, so Oak Bluffs awarded 3.4 acres of town-owned property on Bellevue Avenue for the project.

“We were really pleased about it,” Tankard said. He said the committee was “totally supportive” of pushing the project forward. 

Securing the parcel on Bellevue Avenue is a step in the process toward affordable veteran housing. 

“The RFP had just come out, and we don’t know who’s gonna win it,” Tankard said, estimating it may be another three or four months before the bid winner is announced. “We’re going to be doing fundraising and everything we need to do to make sure it can happen.” 

Tankard said there are veterans on the Island, like many others, who have difficulty finding affordable housing. He said some live in the woods, in their cars, or stay at someone else’s place. Veterans made up 1 percent of the 136 homeless individuals counted by Harbor Homes of Martha’s Vineyard between July 2021 and July 2022.

“It’s something that’s needed,” Tankard said. “If they can have their own space and their own identity, they’ll be in the up and up.” 

Moving forward, Tankard said he just hopes “everything goes well.” 

The RFP is available now on the Oak Bluffs town website. The deadline for bid materials is on Friday, Jan. 27, at 2 pm.