Political action group ACK•Now has launched a new program to pay property owners for converting housing units into year-round rentals for local residents, a move intended to combat Nantucket’s affordable housing crisis.
ACK•Now’s new sister organization, ACK•Now Community Solutions, has already set aside $300,000 for the program, dubbed “Lease to Locals,” which will be the first of its kind in the United States to be entirely privately funded and not rely on taxpayer support. The majority of the funding was provided by the McCausland Foundation, run by billionaire Peter McCausland, one of ACK•Now’s founding members.
“I’m thrilled with the launch of ACK•Now Community Initiatives and its focus on making it easier for year-round residents to live and work here,” ACK•Now board chairman and business owner Carl Jelleme said in a press release. “The Lease to Locals program is hitting the ground running thanks to a generous gift from the McCausland Foundation.”
Developed by Placemate, Inc., an online platform focused on solving the housing crisis in vacation towns, Lease to Locals programs have already been implemented in half a dozen towns across the western half of the country, but ACK•Now’s project will be Placemate’s first operation east of Colorado. Placemate boasts that its existing operations have housed hundreds of people and converted many housing units to long-term, local rentals. As Nantucket’s housing crisis accelerates and local groups scramble to secure funding for affordable housing projects, Lease to Local’s new strategy—and the influx of cash that comes with it—could help create housing options for those in need.
“I appreciate that a private organization is taking the lead and bringing this project to fruition, and I look forward to exploring whether the Town could become a partner of this program in the future,” Select Board Vice Chair Brooke Mohr said in a press release.
ACK•Now executive director Julia Lindner confirmed that ACK•Now hopes to expand the project and partner with more organizations in the future to provide further year-round housing opportunities for locals. Lease to Locals is also viewed as a new weapon in ACK•Now’s running fight against the proliferation of short-term rentals (STRs). For years, ACK•Now has sponsored controversial Town Meeting articles aiming to impose strict regulations on STRs, drawing fire from STR operators and their allies. Recently, Lindner, a member of the now defunct nine-member Short Term Rental Work Group, was one of only two members to dissent from the Work Group’s finalized proposals, which she argued did not go far enough to restrict STRs on island.
As a non-regulatory solution, Lease to Locals offers ACK•Now an opportunity to repackage its push against STRs and avoid criticism from property rights advocates. Unlike some past efforts, the program won’t restrict anyone’s ability to rent their home short-term and doesn’t rely on approval from voters—a hurdle that has proven difficult for any STR-related articles to clear. Lindner confirmed that the immediacy of the program was one reason ACK•Now chose it.
Ideas like Lease to Locals have been on the minds of affordable housing advocates for a long time, including Nantucket resident Mary Mack, who has pitched similar ideas to the Nantucket Affordable Housing Trust and the Town of Nantucket. Mack learned about Placemate from Nantucket Together.