To the editor: First, I would like to thank Nantucket voters. Starting in 2019, you answered the call to get serious about addressing an existential issue that had been kicking around since the time Bill Klein started the Land Bank. Bill himself spoke back in the ‘80’s of this important other need – year-round housing – and made efforts to gain financial support for it.
Despite the efforts and good intentions of some members of the community that resulted in the Covenant Program and Sachem’s Path, the progress toward solving the housing shortage in the ensuing decades had been observably slow until relatively recently.
Because of voter support of $67 million across Annual Town Meetings from 2019 – present, we as a community have been able to make much more rapid progress on our Subsidized Housing Inventory (the state 10 percent requirement under Chapter 40B) in recent years. We have gone from 2 percent to nearly 7 percent with light at the end of the tunnel.
We have been in an uninterrupted period of “Safe Harbor” since 2019 and have secured that protection until December 2024. We are positioned to reach the full 10% requirement if financial support continues.
Despite the funds having been available less than 4 years, and with a global pandemic injected into that period, significant progress has been made. Thirty-six Nantucket households are already under new roofs and the foundations have been laid for nearly 200 more households to follow in the next 3-4 years. As an example, the collaboration between the Affordable Housing Trust, local builder Billy Cassidy, and Housing Nantucket will provide affordable options to 22 year-round households this fall. And the recently issued RFP for Trust-owned property at 135 and 137 Orange Street promises more to follow.
Voters have had a great deal of trust in the check-and-balance system under which all of these funds are administered. For any project that requires more than $100k which the Affordable Housing Trust would like to implement, it must also be approved by the Select Board. The same would be true of the $6.5 million that Article 18 would provide if administered by the Trust.
The progress on the 40B requirement has been largely accomplished through increasing rental stock. $37 million has already gone out the door, and the balance is planned to near-term. More funding is required to ultimately reach the the 10 percent state requirement. Yet we all understand that the 10 percent does not tell the whole story when it comes to year-round housing need on the island. It has been stated that if we want to have things like a school, a fire department, non-profits we enjoy, nurses and more, we must also provide ownership opportunity for year-rounders. That will require funds like those Article 18 can provide.
Voting for housing is different than voting for conservation land. At some level, when one votes for conservation, the personal benefit is evident – we can see personally enjoying a given piece of property. When you vote for housing, you might never step foot onto the property of the person it will ultimately directly benefit.
It takes vision to see that you, too, will indeed benefit from year-round housing even if you do not live in it personally. You may benefit by a teacher being here to teach your kids, a coworker being housing secure and working alongside you, a nurse being available to you at the hospital, your favorite shop or restaurant being open, a coach being here to guide your child’s team.
The fact is, we all benefit.
Someone observed that 30 miles out to sea, we are all in this together. Every community member on this island impacts others in all kinds of ways that are not always so obvious. And when one of us hurts, at some level we all do.
We have a lot of folks hurting on Nantucket. Article 18 is an opportunity to continue the good work of the Affordable Housing Trust and the other housing organizations working alongside them diligently to address the situation. An argument can certainly be made, much work remains to be done and these organizations have earned your trust.
Nantucket Housing Director