Affordable Housing Has Many Tools. Now We Need To Deploy Them
Henry Sanford •
To the editor: After the passage at Town Meeting of the debt override in annual funding of $6.5 million dollars per year, the affordable housing initiatives on Nantucket have just gotten a giant shot in the arm. I for one am thrilled that there is now a consistent source of funding that can address a problem that has been a slow-motion train wreck for the past 30 years, with many of my generation bearing the brunt.
We have invested a great amount of money in brick and mortar projects, and have seen success in getting the island into safe harbor and avoiding the threat of 40Bs. This is in large part due to the great team at Housing Nantucket and the Affordable Housing Trust, and of course, municipal housing director Tucker Holland.
I hope going forward Nantucket can see a diversification of housing programs that can contribute to this multifactorial issue. Financial programs like down payment assistance, co-ownership schemes, deed restriction buy downs, utility assistance and closing cost assistance take no permitting to institute, no bids from contractors to build, and can be applied with lightning speed in comparison to the affordable housing building process. Simply put, the money could go to helping the need for home ownership now, rather than brick and mortar projects that will take years to develop. It would be great to also see other organizations kick-in and build on the current momentum.
The Land Bank could have an exemption for year-round housing no matter what the cost. Local real estate brokers can join me in offering flat rates for first-time home buyers. The Nantucket Land Council could lend its knowledge of deed restriction enforcement to help design a year-round deed restriction program that could buy down the values of existing homes, rather than building new ones.
I've always visualized the housing problem on Nantucket as a ladder: some people start higher up, thus have quicker achievement to the goal of single-family home ownership. The resources of this new funding allows Nantucket to install more rungs on the ladder going forward which address housing needs without contributing to the ever-growing monolith of structures on this island.