This is a memo I recently wrote to all SMCo employees in advance of a company meeting specifically devoted to Housing.
The effort to create an MV Housing Bank modeled after the MV Land Bank is now 16 months old. A broad coalition of islanders, young and old, has been engaged in a complex effort to make this happen. Abbie and I both serve on the Steering Committee of The Coalition to Create the MV Housing Bank, and have been deeply involved from the beginning.
The Goal To establish a regional Housing Bank that provides a reliable and significant source of long-term funding to advance year-round housing
Revenue Source A 2% transfer fee on all real estate sales paid by buyer. A minimum of the first $1,000,000 of the sales price will be exempt from this fee.
Projected Revenue $10-12 million per year
Governance & Operation
- Seven elected commissioners (one from each town + one at-large)
- Professional staff
- Town Advisory Boards which must approve all spending in their town
What It Will Do
- Receive and fund proposals
- Provide grants, loans, loan guarantees, rental assistance, purchase restrictions, etc
- Individuals, for profits and non-profits, and public entities will be eligible for funding
- Buy and sell real estate
- It will not develop, manage, or maintain.
Who It Will Serve Those in need of stable housing who make up to 240% of Area Median Income ($251K for a family of four) and below. This allows for the future certain rise in real estate costs (Nantucket is now at $3M median home sale price).
Requirements & Priorities
- At least 75% of funding must be used to re-purpose previously developed properties with existing buildings
- Reclaiming short-term rental (Airbnb) properties is the focus
- All new construction must adhere to stringent environmental requirements (no fossil fuels, no new net nitrogen pollution, ecological restrictions) and priorities (honor smart growth principles, avoid priority habitats)
What Does It Take To Get It Done
- Passage in at least 4 of the 6 towns at town meeting and town elections
- Passage in the state legislature
- Final ballot vote to adopt the legislation upon its return from Beacon Hill
Existing subsidized affordable housing programs (like IHT and DCRHA) can’t come close to meeting the need. Over 1,000 households are currently in sub-standard housing.
On top of that, countless Vineyarders make too much money to qualify for limited current assistance but too little to enter the inflated housing market.
The housing bank will have both funds and tools with which to serve these people.
Here’s just one example that would be relevant to some of you: Let’s say that you can afford to spend $650,000 for a house, but you can’t find anything suitable for less than $900,000. You could apply to The Housing Bank for a $250,000 shared appreciation loan to make up that difference. The way that we envision this working is:
- If you never sell that house, you never pay back the loan.
- If you do sell the house, you pay back the loan and only a portion of the appreciation of that house during the time between the receipt of the loan and the sale.
This kind of program availability will fundamentally change the housing issue for a large number of Vineyarders.
Passing the Housing Bank, in both the towns and at the state legislature, is a heavy lift. It is by no means certain. To date, our efforts have been focused on:
- Designing the housing bank
- Bringing it to the community, including countless meetings with town boards, organizations, businesses, etc
- Gathering support
- Drafting warrant articles and getting them on all six town meeting warrants and ballots
- Drafting legislation (26 pages long) to submit to the legislature
Now our focus has changed. Between now and town meetings/ballot elections, it’s all about Getting Out The Vote! A major effort is underway to get people to the town meetings and the ballot box. The effort is particularly focused on younger members of the population, many of whom rarely or never go to town meetings and some of whom aren’t even registered.
Although lawn signs are appearing and an extensive social media campaign is underway, this is primarily a person-to-person effort.
Here’s what we ask:
- Browse the extensive information on our website: If you’re a person who likes the details, check out the Warrant Article. If you want a general overview, check out the FAQ. If you feel opposed to the Housing Bank, have a look at the Common Misconceptions section to see if you might have something wrong.
- Personally talk to at least five people you know about the Housing Bank. Ask them to go to their town meeting and their town election and vote for the Housing Bank. Ask them to talk to five others. If someone asks a question you can’t answer, send them to Abbie or me.
- Go to your town’s meeting and your town’s election and vote YES for the Housing Bank!
This is an exceptionally important moment in time for the Vineyard. Please join us in this effort. It will change the future of island life – for all of us – forever.
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