A decade after a seminal study showing the magnitude of the Vineyard’s housing crisis — in facts and figures, resident surveys and census data — a collection of Island affordable housing groups want to do it all again.
The Joint Affordable Housing Group, an informal committee that includes the various town affordable housing committees, nonprofit housing organizations and advocates, is trying to scrabble together approximately $30,000 to replicate a housing needs assessment carried out in 2001 and last updated in 2005.
The update is needed, they say, given the deterioration in the general economy and housing situation on the Island since then.
But the group is encountering some resistance, notably from the Edgartown selectmen, who were hostile this week to a request for the town to put $4,000 toward the study. The town housing trust had recommended providing the money from the housing trust fund.
The selectmen have not formally voted against the funding, but are expected to do so on Monday.
The cost to each town now is expected to be significantly less; as of yesterday the Martha’s Vineyard Commission had come up with $7,800 to put toward the study costs, and the Martha’s Vineyard Housing Fund said it will contribute $6,000. The balance of the estimated $30,000 cost would be split equally among the Island towns, which amounts to around $2,800 each, if all participate.
All six town affordable housing committees are in support of the initiative, but the various towns are at differing stages of the approval process.
On Tuesday, Tisbury selectmen deferred a decision on whether to pay in, asking the proponents to appear before them with more detail of the proposal.
In Edgartown, the selectmen made clear the objection is based on the belief that the MVC should pick up the costs of the study.
The study is not strictly a commission project, but includes Island housing groups such as the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, Island Elderly Housing and Habitat for Humanity.
The plan calls for securing funding by the end of this month, a consultant selected by July, a draft report by next February and a final report by next March.
A draft scope of the work to be done has been prepared. The report is expected to draw on data from last year’s census, as well as other demographic data from the commission, information from the regional housing authority on waiting lists, so-called “snapshots of need” culled from Island case studies and analysis of development costs for both owner-occupied and rental housing.
In a cover letter outlining the proposal, Christine Flynn, the economic development and affordable housing planner for the commission, said to be effective, a needs study should be done every five years or so to take account of changing circumstances.
“This is particularly so since the housing and economic conditions have changed drastically due to the 2007-2009 recession,” the letter said.
David Vigneault, executive director of the regional housing authority, said an expert, outside consultant will be needed to make the overall assessment. He compared the various Island housing groups “blind philosophers feeling the elephant — we all know our part pretty well, but we need a more practiced third party with expertise to get the overall picture.”
There is general agreement that the need for affordable housing is greater now than it was a decade ago, when the original report was done.
Data from the most recent U.S. Census shows median house prices ranging from around $600,000 in Tisbury to over $1 million in Chilmark — a roughly 100 per cent increase from 10 years ago.
Meanwhile, incomes have lagged hugely. The 2010 census shows median income has increased barely 10 per cent, to $62,500.
Over the decade, the Island’s demographic characteristics also have changed dramatically. The average Vineyarder now is 45.6 years old, almost five years older than in 2000. The total population of the Island has grown at least 10.3 per cent, according to the Census, and probably somewhat more, given evidence of under counting.
“Nobody’s really disputing the need,” said Mr. Vigneault.