"It really infuriates me," Select Board chair Jason Bridges said last week at the start of the board's Wednesday evening meeting.
He was holding a bumper sticker that had been delivered, anonymously, to the Town & County Building on Broad Street, addressed to the Select Board.
It read: "If you want affordable housing, move to Cape Cod where you belong."
Bridges made it a point to call out the sentiment - whether it was a joke or not.
"Do you like going to Stop & Shop and buying food?" he asked rhetorically to the sparse crowd in attendance. "Do you like going to the post office and having somebody wait on you so you can mail something? Do you like someone taking your blood at the hospital when you need to get bloodwork if you have a medical issue? Do you like someone filling your propane tank in the winter? Well, we need housing for people to do these things."
He said the bumper sticker had arrived in the mail that day, and read it to the audience.
"I don't think it's funny," Bridges said. "I'm sure people are trying to goad us. Somebody thinks it's funny. But it's insensitive at best. I just don't understand why you would think that when there are third generation Nantucketers who are in affordable housing here and have a family and are secure and safe. So this kind of stuff - I'll stay professional about it - but it really infuriates me. Of course it was anonymous. No one's going to say who did it. Anything you do here, think about if you want to continue to do it. Even the little things. People need to have housing."
Since the pandemic, Nantucket's housing crisis has only deepened as the island's real estate market has boomed. In 2022, the average home sale price on Nantucket was $4 million, and the median price was $3 million.
Island residents have voted to allocate more than $67 million in taxpayer funds for affordable housing initiatives over the past five years. But given the slow pace of municipal projects, those funds have so far resulted in housing for just 36 year-round households to date, although an additional 200-plus are anticipated to be housed upon the completion of additional projects in the pipeline
This weekend, island voters will consider a permanent $6.5 million annual tax override for affordable housing projects to continue that work.
Against that backdrop, the bumper sticker touched a nerve with the Select Board.
"I am both angry, but mostly sad because I think of Nantucket as a caring community, a diverse community in so many ways and that diversity includes socioeconomic diversity," Select Board member Brooke Mohr said. "And we have jobs that range from entry level pay, all the way up to business owners, senior executives, and every member of our community regardless of what they earn, is a valued member of our community. Folks coach teams, they help their neighbors out, they made masks during COVID. We are, I believe, a community whose intention is to care for one another and when we think about excluding some segment of our community because they quote unquote can't afford to live here, that makes me really sad. I've worked hard as you all know on trying to create an adequate supply of housing for people who want to live and work here, who we need to live and work here and are invested in the community, who want to stay and grow their families here, and that attitude expressed in that bumper sticker makes me mostly sad that there are still people in our community who feel as though some people in our community should somehow be voted off the island. They are part of us."
Select Board vice-chair Dawn Hill Holdgate also added her perspective to the discussion.
"It's like people do these things in a complete vacuum and don't put any faces with it," Dawn Hill Holdgate said. "Even in my own family, I'm the oldest of five, and my family has been on Nantucket since the mid-1970s. Three of my siblings are natives and two of them do not have permanent housing. Thankfully three of us do. It's not people who moved here yesterday, I mean it is too - and they're just as qualified to be part of the community - but it's across the board. That's not even a solution. Who's going to work in a restaurant and commute to the Cape? Who's going to pick up your laundry at 4 o'clock in the morning, which is what Holdgate's Laundry does?"
Watch the full exchange below: