Housing Bank Legislation Open for Review at Public Forum in Tisbury Senior Center

By BRIEN HEFLER

The Martha's Vineyard Community Housing Bank Coalition will hold a public forum to discuss and review draft legislation for the proposed Martha's Vineyard Housing Bank tonight at the Tisbury senior center from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Copies of the ten-page draft bill will be distributed to the audience at the forum, offering the public a glimpse of the bill before it heads to Beacon Hill. A four-member panel will answer questions, including Cape and Islands Sen. Robert O'Leary, Rep. Eric T. Turkington, Island Affordable Housing Fund chairman John Abrams, and Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank president Richard Leonard.

Approved in a nonbinding ballot initiative by voters in all six Island towns last spring, the housing bank is envisioned as a way to generate revenue for affordable housing projects through a one per cent seller-paid transfer fee on all real estate transactions over $750,000. The concept is modeled after the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank.

Abbe Burt, administrator for the Martha's Vineyard Community Housing Bank Coalition, said the housing bank could raise an additional $2.3 million in affordable housing funds each year. That money would be paired with money earned through the Community Preservation Act, a property tax surcharge also now adopted by every Vineyard town.

"We have been working on a two-pronged effort since last September to get permanent public funding for affordable housing on the Vineyard and this is the second prong," Ms. Burt said. "We have a goal of $5 million a year and the Community Preservation Act will only provide about $2 million. This is the second half of it."

The draft housing bank legislation was distributed to selectmen and other boards in all Island towns last winter. The forum tonight is intended to allow more discussion before the bill is filed.

"We knew all along that people would want to actually see it in writing in case anyone had additional questions," Ms. Burt said.

The bill is expected to face an uphill battle at the State House. Ms. Burt said the bill could take up to a year to work its way through the legislative process. If it is approved by legislature, it will return to the Island voters for final approval.

Copies of the housing bank legislation will be distributed at the meeting and are also available at selectmen's offices in each town or on the Martha's Vineyard Community Housing Bank Coalition Website, www.mvchb.org.