Cheers and tears. That’s the way of a Vineyard housing lottery.
On Tuesday, March 30th, a standing room only crowd packed the meeting room at the Howes House. At stake: seven new LEED platinum houses at Eliakim’s Way off State Road in West Tisbury. There was a mix of nervous applicants, expectant children, public officials, and housing advocates.
In the front of the room David Vigneault and Terri Keech of the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority, lottery administrators, explained the process. A complex matrix of preferences and qualifications was so arcane nobody could actually understand it. The crowd chuckled when David finished his explanation and said, “Is that all clear?”
But everyone understood the real meaning. Qualified applicants would drop their tickets into a slot in a gaily painted cardboard house, and public officials would draw them out one by one to determine whose future would change in a heartbeat. A large easel in front of the room showed, for each house, the qualified applicants. After each drawing Terri, decked out in a leopard skin hat, would flip the sheet with a flourish to reveal the next house and its applicants.
Philippe and Maddie Ezanno, and their 11-year-old daughter Juniper, embraced as their name was drawn. Future on Martha’s Vineyard: assured. George Drew and Krissy Kinsman sat eagerly in the front row. Their name was drawn. They were silent, sat back, and breathed deeply before collapsing into each other’s arms. Future on Martha’s Vineyard: assured.
It was all done in a half hour. Lives had changed. Others hadn’t. Some slipped out, disconsolate, wondering when the next one would be. As the glow wore off, others remained. They realized they would soon be neighbors. They hugged and congratulated each other.
This is the fourth time I have witnessed one of these lotteries. They’re bittersweet – I’ve seen plenty of tears of both happiness and sadness. The sad ones – they’re the reason we do it. Again and again, despite the trials and tribulations, which are ample. And also because we may be able to look back sometime soon – perhaps in 5 years, perhaps in 10, perhaps in 15, and say, “Amazing. We had a problem – a big knotty complicated problem – and we truly solved it.” How rare. How wonderful.
But for now – cheers and tears.
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It’s an especially poignant moment for all of us at South Mountain, as we have poured heart-and-soul into this project for the past two years – through design, permitting, and construction. It has been a wonderful collaboration with the Island Housing Trust (the property owners), the Island Affordable Housing Fund, the Cape Light Compact (who provided funding for solar and energy efficiency through the Mass Renewable Trust’s Green Affordable Homes initiative), Habitat for Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard (who built an eighth house using our design), and others. The Town of West Tisbury and a number of private donors were generous, providing the funding to fill the gap between the sale prices and the cost. Our crews and subcontractors were nothing short of spectacular – efficient, effective, and passionately devoted to quality.
Recently Island Housing Trust director Philippe Jordi, SMCo designer/project manager Derrill Bazzy, SMCo energy sales manager Rob Meyers, and I met with the eight excited families to review their new Owners’ Manuals and teach them how their houses work.
We also unveiled a new contest!
The houses are designed to be super low-energy users, and we told the new homeowners that any household that is able to get through the first year using ZERO energy (or being a net energy producer!) would win a prize: a one year membership to the Whippoorwill Farm CSA, or an equivalent gift certificate at the Net Result fish market. If everybody does it, they each get the prize. If nobody does it, the lowest user gets the prize. As Rob said, “These houses are net-zero possible. It all depends on how you live in them and operate them.”
Below is an article that will appear in the MV Real Estate Guide about a “zero-energy possible” spec house we’re building on West Spring Street in Vineyard Haven that uses an enhanced version of the Eliakim’s Way design.
Will the Eliakim’s Way houses make zero energy? Will the West Spring Street house?
Don’t know. As the headline says, “We’ll find out.”