“Martha goes to Beacon Hill”

“I feel like the Vineyard is this wonderful community and today is just about illustrating that and showing our legislators what’s at stake.”


About 200 Vineyarders got the 7 am ferry Thursday morning to a fleet of charter buses waiting in Woods Hole, the beginnings of a trip to Boston in support of housing legislation at the state house.

Ralliers were gung-ho for a full day of advocating in front of lawmakers.

The “Martha Goes to Beacon Hill” rally has been months in the making and organized by the Coalition to Create a Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank.

The group hopes that state lawmakers will allow the Vineyard to impose a transfer fee on expensive real estate, in order to develop housing.

According to coalition steering committee member Abbie Zell, 250 people from Martha’s Vineyard and 60 from Nantucket signed up, although not everyone is going to Beacon Hill on the same route. 

A Steamship Authority booth worker said the biggest group on the ferry was 175 people. 

Everyone had their own reasons to head to advocate for housing on the Island.

Georgia Maroni, who lived on the Island for 12 years, said she is traveling to Boston for her friends. 

“I have a lot of friends who tend to be housing insecure,” she said. “I’m pretty lucky because I have a boyfriend who is an Islander so we have pretty secure housing, but it’s hard when your friends are choosing to leave or stay because they can’t find a place to live.”

Jim Wallen, who works in real estate and is an Aquinnah planning board member, pointed out the lack of housing for working folks. He said the Island was becoming a place where a person needed to be wealthy to secure housing. 

“People in the trades, they just don’t have a place to live,” he said. “It’s not just trades now, it’s professionals. There’s just no year-round housing anymore.” 

Zell said in particular, the young people with skills will become Martha’s Vineyard’s “greatest export.”

Steering committee member Kim Angell, who worked in affordable housing for 20 years, said the Island is at a “crisis point,” and now is the time to act.

Ralliers were thrilled to see such a large group, that included students, traveling to Boston. 

“It’s just magic,” Zell said. “I feel like the Vineyard is this wonderful community and today is just about illustrating that and showing our legislators what’s at stake.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Times will be filing reports from the rally.


    • I don’t know who paid for the busses, but I hope at least some of it was my tax money.
      Money well spent in the cause of democracy in my opinion.
      I wish them the best.
      After all, they could just be advocating for this by holding signs at 5 corners, which some people here think is ineffective and just “preaching to the choir”.

  1. Huge thumbs up for this group that has done everything the right way for the past few years, starting with a grassroots effort of Zoom meetings and letter writing. Now our representatives and the legislature have to do their part, because our island rises and falls on the ability of working people at all levels to be housed right here.

  2. To John Axel: people who love the Vineyard paid for the buses . . and for the staffers, lawyers, Beacon Hill lobbyists & publicists, and many other expenses without which this awesome years-long campaign could not have happened. People who love the Vineyard, simple as that. But aside from the money, people who love the Vineyard have also put thousands of volunteer hours into making this happen. And it will. Success is not yet just around the corner, but it’s coming closer. Still some hard work ahead at the legislature, which we relish. Thanks a million to all those who joined us on this incredible day of community and democracy. You are responsible for making the change we all need. Onward we go.

  3. Dan, as the saying goes, that horse has already left the barn..
    This isn’t designed to bring more people to the Island, it’s to allow those who are already here to stay. It shouldn’t be an impossible situation for the essential workers of all professions to be able to live in decent conditions where they are employed.

    • I respectfully disagree Gayle. True that we already have soaring population growth (and overpopulation issues) despite the so-called “housing crisis”. But the housing bank bill will make things worse. Nothing in the bill limits the new housing opportunities to people who are currently living here. Employers are the ones who need to step up and provide housing for employees or pay enough to account for housing costs.

    • In the real world it’s not unusual for workers to commute for an hour or more for good wages. The island has great wages compared to off island. Our workforce doesn’t have to live here. We should focus on subsidized transportation ( high speed ferries) to the island for workers. That will go a long way to solving the problem and freeing up year round rentals which are now rented seasonally by businesses for employee housing.

  4. I agree having affordable housing is a need, I just don’t agree that another tax is the answer to achieving that goal. We already have a land bank tax, as well as, a rental tax. The money for affordable housing should come from those taxes we already pay. The land bank is just decreasing the available properties, thus, adding to the housing problem. Not all land bank property need to be used for conservation when we have a housing crisis. Some of those lands would be perfect for affordable housing. Not all, but some.

    In addition, the million dollar trigger is way too low. I bet you can’t find 10 houses on the market that are under 1 million dollars, and if you can, try buying it and not need to do significant improvements to make it livable for a family of four. Why do you think so many houses are being razed and replaced? Then think 5 years down the road, there won’t be any houses that don’t trigger the tax and those who wish to buy for the first time can’t because they have to pay an additional $20,000.00 for this tax and an additional $20,000.00 for the land bank. That will only add to the inability to buy a house for a first time buyer, so developers will continue to buy up the stock and do what they want with it. Who loses then, the person trying to make a living here.

    The idea of increasing affordable housing is commendable, just don’t add another tax.

    • The idea of increasing affordable housing is commendable, just as long as it doesn’t cost you a dime.

      • It is costing me a dime, I paid the land bank tax. I’m saying, redistribute the taxes you already have, and I pay those too. New taxes aren’t the answer.

  5. This is not about bringing more people to the Vineyard. Don’t you notice that the people who work here are living in sub-standard and unstable housing? From teachers to medical professionals to business owners to carpenters to cashiers – housing is not available and they are leaving. Businesses are closing. We are losing the fabric of our community. It is a crisis and it will affect everyone if we don’t act now.

    • In fact our year-round Vineyard population is growing. Population growth may not be an intended consequence of the housing bank bill, but it will certainly be an unintended consequence.

      • The year-round population is growing in most areas.
        Most people do not want to live where it is shrinking.

  6. It is possible, and we know because we did it, to take a group of apartments that are being rented to tenants and convert them to conos. This resulted in an average cost of $300,000 for well designed, custom built and furnished, with access to a roof deck and is very affordable and simple in concept. It requires quite a bit of legal and surveying work, but it is a simple answer. It works and benefits everyone.

    Vermont also has adopted grants by the state to buyers, tax incentives, not charges, and other ways to assist in housing crisis. This is a national problem and there are lots of ways to accomplish the goals. Not just one.

  7. 1. The last go-round this failed on Beacon Hill because (paraphrasing Cyr & Fernandes at that time) other legislators saw no community support and decided it was unimportant.

    2. This will generate a fund for towns to address the problem. What we do with it will be determined in each town through our work with each town government. Want to limit population growth? Want to benefit teachers, nurses, doctors, firefighters, police … ? Want to anticipate tricks to game the system for personal profit at our expense? Whatever you want, your town is the place to work it out. Expect wolves sounding like kindly shepherds and sharks pretending to be belugas.

    3. Building more houses houses houses does not scale. We need better use of what we have. We need zoning and other changes to encourage year-round rental, sharing property (e.g. year-round caretaker family for summer estate), etc. , and to discourage absentee investors taking summer profit from houses that are vacant half the year or more.

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