Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is committed to performing the administrative work associated with collecting fees if a housing bank is approved by the island cities and state lawmakers.
In an April 12 letter to the Coalition Forming Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank, Land Bank Executive Director James Lengyel wrote that charging is an integral part of the Land Bank’s administration.
“The means to do this would be to have an intergovernmental agreement setting out all the details. However, it is important that the law on the housing bank itself is drafted to facilitate these arrangements, and I volunteer to be available for consultation at any time, ”Lengyel wrote in part. “Since the vehicle is an intergovernmental agreement, the Landbank Act does not need to be changed.”
The Landbank receives its income through a land acquisition fee of two percent determined by state legislation. Collecting fees for a potential housing bank is included in the land bank’s charter.
The processing of fee transactions through the land bank would be a great advantage for the coalition, as the administrative costs of a future housing bank would be kept as low as possible.
“The Landbank’s offer to collect the transfer fees on behalf of Housing Bank supports our goal of creating a very lean administrative structure by avoiding significant administrative costs so that the maximum funds can be used for housing rather than operating costs”, Coalition Chairman Julie Fay said in a statement to the Times. “We were delighted to have our meeting with the commissioners and directors of the Landbank, and their support clearly underlines that living and nature conservation should go hand in hand and are equally important for maintaining the quality of life on the island and for a healthy infrastructure. The fact that their charter contains provisions on charging fees on behalf of a housing bank also shows their commitment to supporting affordable housing. “
The coalition is the third attempt at a housing bank in Martha’s Vineyard and is in the midst of a growing housing crisis on the island. The first company in 2005 reached an agreement with all six island cities and multiple island brokers, but was shot down by state lawmakers when the Massachusetts Association of Realtors opposed it. The second attempt came in 2019 after the extended room excise tax on rentals like Airbnb and VRBO. In this proposal, 50 percent of the new revenue was demanded from the tax, but was quickly rejected by the selected townspeople before being defeated by each town at the annual town councils.
In its early stages, the coalition established a 15-member Steering Committee and a Coalition Council with one representative from each Island Select Board, Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and the Dukes County Commission. The coalition has also met with members of the Wampanoag gay tribe (Aquinnah) who will designate a member of the coalition.
If it existed, the housing bank would attempt to mirror the structure of the land bank with elected officials and advisory boards from each city. The housing bank would not do development or land management, but would be a funding mechanism for cities, nonprofits, developers, and other entities looking to build affordable housing.
The coalition is taking a two-pronged approach to efforts at both local and state levels.
The coalition conducts research on site and solicits input from city administrations, committees, community groups and the public. The aim is to present a resolution by the housing bank to the island voters in spring 2022.
At the state level, according to Fay, the coalition is facing its “worst upswing”. The coalition is trying to connect Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket, Provincetown, Boston, Somerville, Brookline, and Concord – all cities that have petitions to create residential banks based on remittance fees.
Several bills have been submitted to state lawmakers to allow cities and regions to set transfer fees to finance affordable housing.
Many details, such as the transfer fee and the transactions to be exempted, are examined and discussed by the coalition. The endgame, however, is to create a Martha’s Vineyard Housing Bank along the lines of the Land Bank, which will help provide housing for low and low-level middle-income people earning less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) ($ 85,000 for a family of four), and middle-income people who earn less than 150 percent of the AMI ($ 150,000 for a family of four) or up to 200 percent AMI.
The coalition held its first public listening sessions for Monday, May 3 and Wednesday, May 5, both evenings at 7 p.m. More information and zoom links on the listening sessions will be posted next week. The coalition will give a presentation on its work and a summary of the Beacon Hill legislation, and the public will have the opportunity to ask questions.