Michelle Vivian-Jemison, access coordinator and instructor for MVTV, realized the difficulty of securing housing on the Vineyard first-hand as soon as she arrived in 2007.

“When I first came here, I quickly learned that you really only have six months of stable housing, and then you have to find something else,” she said in a pre-recorded interview with journalist Michele Norris and Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi at the organization’s kickoff summer fundraiser earlier this week.

“I’ve moved probably 25 times the last time I counted,” she added.

Ms. Vivian-Jemison said she was able to enter the Island Housing Trust lottery in March of 2020 and move into an affordable home in August of that year.

IHT executive director Philippe Jordi outlined fundraising goal of $60 million by 2025.

“It means so much on the Island to have that stable housing,” she said. “You know little Ethan, our eight year old, can stay and grow up here.”

Ms. Vivian-Jemison is now on the board of the IHT, trying to give back to others. The organization is looking to raise $1 million this summer for affordable housing with a much larger goal by 2025.

“We have a goal of creating 150 new homes by the end of 2025,” Mr. Jordi said. “And to accomplish this, we have to raise $60 million in public and private funding and financing.”

In addition to raising money, Ms. Norris suggested that perhaps the conversation needed to change. “Because when people hear the words affordable housing, they like the idea, but they want it to be distant,” she said. “You know, I like affordable housing, it should just be over there. And do you try to interrogate the notion that it needs to be over there or do you try to come up with a new term, so that people don’t react in quite the same way?”

Board member Wendy Wolf spoke about how the pandemic had exacerbated housing insecurity on the Island.

“The median housing sales price in Dukes County, from January to May of this year, rose to $1.1 million, a 58 per cent increase since the same period two years ago, and of course salaries and wages have not risen concomitantly,” she said.

Ms. Wolf shared how the organization plans to address these issues.

“Since 2006, IHT has created 71 affordable ownership and rental units,” she said. “It has 36 units in the pipeline for 2021, its largest amount to date. The board, in response to this tremendously escalating crisis, has developed a bold strategic plan called vision 2025 that triples production of new and renovated affordable year-round housing units.”

Christopher Anderson, director of annual giving, guided the audience through how to donate on Island Housing Trust’s Give Lively page. But board president Doug Ruskin emphasized that the work does not end with checkbooks.

“The main thing that everybody can do that is relatively easy is [to] let your select persons and your planning board members know that you think housing is a priority,” he said. “The planning boards can make changes to zoning that can make some of what we do easier. If the selectmen and women around the Island support these kinds of projects and promote them, they’ll be more available to everybody.”

To donate, visit ihtmv.org.