Updated Oct. 27.
To fulfill a request from West Tisbury to house residents 55 and over, the Island Housing Trust (IHT) is asking Vineyard towns for a combined $1.4 million in Community Preservation Act (CPA) grants for a nine-apartment neighborhood.
According to IHT officials, the project — comprising five buildings and shared greenspace on 3.1 acres at 401 State Road — would be the Island’s first neighborhood of year-round, affordable rentals for people 55 and older.
The project originated from West Tisbury identifying that age group as a demographic in need.
Project completion is scheduled for July 2025, and moving in for summer to fall 2025.
Households earning up to 80 percent and 100 percent of the area median income will be eligible for the apartments, and the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority will be the property manager for the rentals. The housing authority will organize a lottery to determine inhabitants.
To build the neighborhood, IHT is working with Union Studio architects, based in Providence, R.I. IHT will also be entering into a 99-year ground lease with West Tisbury upon closing of construction.
Trust real estate project director Keith McGuire says that the project comes from West Tisbury giving its attention to housing issues.
“All this was decided by the town, who asked us [to build the project],” says McGuire. “The town put out a request for proposal that said, ‘We have a property, and we’d like a nonprofit developer to build it.'”
McGuire says that there is a great need for affordable housing for all Vineyard populations and ages, but that West Tisbury identified those 55 and older as a specific demographic in need. “West Tisbury affordable housing committee has the big picture in mind,” says McGuire.
The American Community Survey estimates that in 2022, nearly 37 percent of Dukes County residents were aged 55 and older. In 2012, the same age group was recorded as 34 percent of the county population.
“We followed the request for proposal, and in some cases went a bit more,” says McGuire of plans for the neighborhood. “The configuration is now seven one-bedroom apartments and two two-bedroom apartments. And a common space with a room, as well.”
McGuire also says that the project is giving particular attention to long-term inhabitant accessibility, given its demographic focus. “If people have affordable apartments, probably they’ll stay there,” says McGuire. “We’re building all [the apartments] to be big enough for aging in place, so they have clearances for wheelchairs.”
One of the one-bedroom buildings and one of the two-bedroom buildings also meet state Architectural Access Board standards, and the other buildings can be adapted in the future to meet those standards. “Two units, as the town asked for, are what’s called Massachusetts AAB [Architectural Access Board] Group 2A, which is a standard of accessibility,” says McGuire. “The other units were made the same size as those, so they can be adapted if we need to, for aging in place.”
The project will also reflect IHT’s environmental priorities. “We always try to build ecologically, for endurance, for long-term, easy maintenance, and for long-term durability,” says McGuire. “There are lots of natural materials like cedar, wood cabinets, and healthy and low-VOC materials in the houses.” VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are harmful fumes released into the air from certain products, such as some paints, building materials, and furniture.
Buildings will also be designed for energy efficiency, and will be all-electric and positioned to maximize solar generation.
The neighborhood will include a shared community room for tenants, with a kitchen and half-bathroom, and each unit will have laundry and storage.
For its CPA grant requests, IHT is seeking $1,056,480 from West Tisbury, $132,520 from Edgartown, $85,760 from Oak Bluffs, $70,680 from Tisbury, $42,000 from Chilmark, and $12,160 from Aquinnah. CPA funding is subject to vote at a town meeting.
In exchange for CPA funding from each town outside of West Tisbury, IHT will give preference for one of the apartments to an applicant from that town who earns 100 percent or less of the area median income.
“We hope it will be approved,” says McGuire of the funding request to Tisbury. “So far, we’ve gotten positive responses from people.”
For the entire project, IHT estimates the total costs at nearly $5 million.
Currently, IHT is looking to secure permits for the project by the end of this year. Multifamily zoning from West Tisbury’s planning board is a high priority for the project.
“[The project is] still in the pre-permitting stage,” says McGuire. “We’re developing design, and working with the [West Tisbury] affordable housing committee, since they are who represents the [town’s] select board in terms of goals. We had a couple of public meetings, mostly through the West Tisbury affordable housing committee. The next stage is the planning board.”
Contractor bidding is slated to occur in April and May, and construction will begin in July 2024.
IHT has also requested CPA funding for two other projects: $1.4 million in total is being requested from the towns for employee housing for public school employees at 48 Courthouse Road in West Tisbury; $1 million is being requested from the towns for veterans-supportive housing at 50 Bellevue Ave. in Oak Bluffs.
As of Oct. 13, IHT has 148 homes in development, including 18 for ownership and 137 rentals. The projects total $92 million in development costs.