Island towns are considering applying together to a Massachusetts Housing Partnership program to help make their communities more walkable.
This Tuesday, Laura Silber, the M.V. Commission’s island housing planner, secured a letter of interest from the Chilmark Select Board in attending a coming presentation from the Complete Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) program. Aquinnah and West Tisbury have already indicated interest in the presentation, scheduled for next Tuesday.
CNI, a product of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, is seeking six Massachusetts communities or regions for its Complete Neighborhoods Partnership (CNP). CNI’s website describes the partnership as “aimed at supporting the creation of walkable, livable neighborhoods near transit and mobility hubs.”
Funding for the program seeks to provide planning expertise, and increase multifamily zoning, community engagement, district-focused investment, and subsidies toward development.
In how CNP could be adapted for rural communities, Silber said, “It can be everything from footpaths to boardwalks … support for electric bicycle chargers, bicycle paths, keeping ancient ways clear.”
She added that Cuttyhunk, which has a public walking path network as well as many poorly maintained trail easements, might be interested in joining a regional application.
Silber also stated that a regional application with all Island towns would have much better odds, and that if accepted, it would be funded at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s discretion, not at CNI’s $150,000 funding cap.
“It could be $400,000, $500,000, $600,000, plus 30 months of technical assistance to each individual town separately, and then a synthesis of all of the plans in sort of an overview, so we can see what the combined impact is,” she said.
Silber also stated that acceptance would help Chilmark’s chances for related goals, including municipal-employee-workforce housing mechanisms, and state housing subsidies being allowed for a larger range of area median income.
“It is my professional assessment that getting into this program will dramatically increase our opportunity to pass the necessary mechanisms that the Island needs to remain functional,” she said.