Chilmark town officials are considering buying homes before they hit the real estate market that would go to Islanders in need of affordable housing.
Talks about the initiative took place at a Select Board meeting on Tuesday night.
Town administrator Tim Carroll proposed buying a property that would be going up for sale in Chilmark soon, and he asked the board if there was an interest to acquire the property as a rental unit for the affordable housing.
Board members Bill Rossi and Marie Larsen both agreed to further explore the option (board member Jim Malkin was not present).
Carroll also proposed the creation of a Political Action Committee (PAC), with the aim of helping Chilmark residents currently renting, to buy the properties before a home goes up for sale.
There was some initial hesitation from board members about the idea, specifically over the finances. “I think a million dollars would be a big number for the town to pay for anything,” Rossi said of the hypothetical situation.
He said that the town’s effort to help boost affordable housing has been geared toward vacant land, undecided lots, and letting a developer build housing.
Other members of the public supported the idea, though, as did Larsen. “I think we need to do whatever we can to get more affordable housing,” Larsen said. “I think it’s a great idea.”
Rossi eventually agreed to look into the idea. He said that reaching out to the public with the proposal was a good idea, and he agreed to organize a group around that effort.
The board also discussed coordinating with existing Island boards and other initiatives already centered around housing.
“I was hoping the selectboard could inform the [Chilmark Housing Committee and the housing bank or groups that are working together that this is a viable option,” Carroll said.
Rossi said that he would take that on.
Currently, the Chilmark Housing Committee works to provide affordable housing for town residents, as well as several projects in the past that have led to the development of affordable housing.
The housing development on Middle Line Road was constructed in 2011 and offers 6 rental units, according to Jim Feiner, chair of Chilmark’s Housing Committee.
Other Chilmark housing initiatives include the affordable housing development at Peaked Hill Pastures. The development is still underway, and would consist of 10 rental units, two “turnkey” owner units, and two homesites.
The town also runs a rental subsidy program to help keep properties going up for sale from turning into short term rentals, says Feiner.
“We bridge the difference between Chilmark value on a year round rental and what someone can afford. That’s all vetted through the Housing Authority,” Feiner said.
The housing committee works with all people to secure affordable housing within their means. The committee currently subsidizes at least four year-round rental houses.
According to Feiner, the town does not currently have a lot of official, affordable rental opportunities, but the committee is always looking for more ways to help.
“In situations where people come to me, and have an extra house they’re not using, and they want us to help figure out how to convert it to a rental or ownership situation, that’s where we step in,” said Feiner.