Six Island residents were settling into new homes this week as the Island Housing Trust celebrated the opening of a new six-unit affordable housing apartment complex in downtown Vineyard Haven.

“It’s a sense of relief, a sense of calm to have a home,” Niki Hebert said Tuesday as members of the community gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. She is one of six tenants renting apartments in the new complex at 6 Water street, across from the Steamship Authority terminal.

Keri Erley and her cat, Bean, are among new Water street residents. — Alison L. Mead

Formerly the site of a dilapidated old house, the property was purchased and donated to the housing trust by Cronig’s Market owner Steve Bernier in May 2012. The new building, complete with solar panels, was designed by the late James Weisman of Terrain Associates in Vineyard Haven.

“Without Steve and people like Steve and the voters in the towns supporting things through Community Preservation Act funds, through zoning changes that may be proposed, it doesn’t get done,” Island Housing Trust board president Richard Leonard said at the ceremony. “The beauty of this one here is that we took something that was run down and an eyesore and it’s in the center of town and it’s smart growth . . . it’s such a great way of developing where density already is and where services already are,” he said.

“This is an amazing collaborative effort,” said Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel, who attended the ceremony. “I said this when we broke ground here and I’ll say it again and hopefully at future ground-breakings . . . we are here on this earth to help one another, that’s probably the only truth I know, and this is an example of our community helping one another. We have to keep that human aspect that we are trying to put people in homes, to help people in our community.”

Earlier this year the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority started the application process for the 750-square-foot, one-bedroom units. Fifty applications were received, and the initial qualifying lottery was divided into two pools, with residents or employees of Tisbury or West Tisbury chosen for four of the units and residents of other towns chosen for the remaining two.

The apartments are designated for those making 50 to 60 per cent of the area median income.

"It's nice to put roots down and have a home," said Sox fan Niki Hebert. — Alison L. Mead

Six names were selected and the potential tenants completed a more detailed application. Move-in day was Oct. 1.

Ms. Hebert, an airport employee, said she had been doing the seasonal housing shuffle since she moved to the Island two years ago. “I was warned it was tough, but I didn’t realize how tough.”

A Red Sox fan, her apartment is decorated with all things baseball, including stadium seating.

“I feel very blessed,” she said. “I lived in the same place for 20 years before I moved here and I thought I could handle it, but it was two years of moving in and out, in and out, in and out. It’s nice to put roots down and have a home.”

Vineyard native Noah Mayrand said being selected for a Water street apartment has given him a sense of stability after spending many summers living in his parents’ home and wintering off-Island.

“I was trying to find a way to make money in the winter time and find a house,” said Mr. Mayrand, who works in catering during the summer and plumbing and shellfishing in the off-season. “I’ve never had a place of my own on the Vineyard, which is incredible. When I found out that I got this place I was like, wow, I could really dig my feet in here and grow some roots. I don’t feel like I’m living in my parents’ basement.”

For real estate sales agent Keri Erley, the new, pet-friendly apartment has also given stability to another member of her family, her cat Bean.

“If it was between me finding housing on the Island or not being able to have my cat I would’ve moved off-Island,” she said. “I feel really lucky. There are so many people without housing right now who are being forced off-Island.”

She said the only challenge so far has been parking. For tenants who have cars, year-round parking is available at the Tisbury Park and Ride.

Noah Mayrand and Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi. — Alison L. Mead

“You’re as downtown as it gets on the Island,” she said. “It’s nice walking everywhere and feeling like you’re in the city.”

As the ceremony came to a close Tuesday, Mr. Bernier was thinking about others who need housing.

“To me this is already history. Where’s tomorrow? What’s next?” he said. “We need other business owners who own property to think about something like this. Just think about it. They [Island Housing Trust] can’t do the work without land, so either we give the land or they buy the land. Each of us plays a role in that. We have to get more people on that so that each person on this Island has a decent place to live in.”

Terri Keech, an administrator of the Dukes County Housing Authority, described the current housing situation as “treacherous.”

“We see a flood of people in our office March through June in utter panic because they have nowhere to go,” she said. “We’ve lost professional people and hard-working people and families who have to leave the Island. And we see the effects of that with businesses closing — it’s not because there’s not enough help, it’s because they can’t find the housing. It’s a real snowball effect.”