Affordable Housing on Martha’s Vineyard desperately needs our attention. Almost anything you love about the Vineyard is protected, maintained or made possible by the people who live here year-round. Yet there is very little to ensure that our year-round population — our workforce — has stable housing. Stability is the key element missing in housing here. We as a community need a viable solution to creating sustainable funding to offset the high cost of living. I support a housing bank using the rental tax to fund it, and believe it is critical to the long-term stability of the people who live and work on the Island. Nothing else to date has provided a long-term solution to this Islandwide problem.

Benevolent donations are not the solution. With more than 100 nonprofits competing for money on Martha’s Vineyard, the source of donations is inconsistent and unreliable. Affordable housing needs a consistent and dependable yearly income stream. Using a portion of the new short-term rental tax is the best solution we have — it doesn’t tax Islanders and it offsets the collateral damage of a good rental industry.

The housing bank would directly benefit police, teachers, EMTs, nurses, mechanics, builders, painters and everyone who keeps our Island running smoothly. The economic engine of thee Vineyard needs its people and the people need support. 

Do we ask towns to change zoning and create higher density areas where we can lump larger groups of dwellings? Do we allow multi-level and multifamily buildings and condos? Do we incentivize developers to build community-focused 40Bs? The people of the Vineyard loathe change. A fully funded housing bank would benefit:

• More than 500 families on a wait list at the regional housing authority to rent or buy.

• 100 to 200 elderly people who earn 50 per cent and under of the area median income.

• Many elderly people who earn too much to qualify for Island Elderly Housing and may have to leave the Island against their wishes.

• Young families who want to be able to stay on the Vineyard.

• Future generations who will be priced out of the Island housing market.

Our housing crisis is directly related to the rental market. The high cost and value of our summer rental industry, estimated at $250 million-plus per year, is driving this problem. There are few year-round rentals, and winter rentals are scarce. A fully funded affordable housing bank could help to subsidize year-round housing, support work-force housing initiatives, support public and private projects, support elderly initiatives to help people age on Martha’s Vineyard, and provide funding for solutions not yet imagined.

I support creating a housing bank — the key is the funding and using the tax is the answer. It’s the first long-term viable solution I have seen in my 20 years working on housing solutions. Let’s use the rental tax to fund a housing bank and support the Vineyard community for today, tomorrow and the future.

Jim Feiner