Solving the Island's Housing Crisis

Solving the Island’s Housing Crisis

As a real estate agent on the Island for over 26 years, I have witnessed the tolerance and tenacity of Islanders who live in a “destination” community that lures visitors from all over the world. Because of the popularity of the Island, it is extremely lucrative to rent and sell a property on the Island for the owners who are primarily second homeowners, but not the year-round residents. Renting a home during the summer months is profitable and helps to defray the cost of purchasing and maintaining a property.

As the values escalate because of lack of land and inventory, the prices of homes at every level have only increased yearly making it very difficult at best for anyone living on Island wages to purchase a home. Renting is more complicated because owners will make a home available off-season at tolerable rates but the lure of summer rentals with weekly rates at approximately the same as an off-season monthly rate absorbs most of the housing.

So what does that do to Islanders with families or individuals? It is called the “Island shuffle” and it’s not pretty. Families move in together, stay with relatives or in small shacks with minimal amenities. Single people are known to live in tents, in their cars or other creative housing situations. As bad as it sounds, it’s that bad.

Island Housing Trust has been diligently addressing the issue since 2006. The good news is that their mission on an Island with limited land resources is to become more creative. There is more awareness and their small snowball is getting bigger and they are becoming more successful.

Image courtesy of Island Housing Trust

I am fortunate to work with IHT in a small capacity on their Fundraising Committee. I have been and currently am on other boards, however the issue of housing is a primary concern because as it becomes more expensive and limiting, the workforce – the bloodline of our community – diminishes and will eventually disappear. I also work diligently for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, however without housing those who are employed and committed to this significant organization could not live here to fill the many staffing needs. Housing first and we all need to make an effort.

IHT works with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to make joint land purchases where a small portion of the parcel is set aside for affordable housing while the rest is preserved for open space. So far there are 29 properties in five out of the six Island towns with many receiving the highest green building certification in the country, making them energy efficient as well as affordable. Recent projects include two homes in Aquinnah, 9 rental apartments in West Tisbury with a new six-unit complex about to begin in Vineyard Haven.

Here is a fabulous documentary that IHT put together with a local team over the past year where you can learn more about our mission and vision! For more details about how IHT is solving this critical problem, visit

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