Representatives from both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket came together on Tuesday to discuss the Islands’ housing, short-term rentals, climate change resiliency and other shared issues during a rare joint meeting that included nearly two dozen select board and county commission members from both Islands Tuesday.

Although both Islands have independent political governing structures, the select boards have gathered to meet jointly in the past, discussing shared issues and exploring ways to improve collaboration across the Nantucket Sound. The most recent joint meeting between leaders from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket took place in the spring of 2021, as leaders grappled with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,

Affordable housing issues took center stage at the joint meeting this year, with the local passage of legislation for Island housing banks funded by a real estate transfer tax stalled at the state level as leaders continue to confront the impacts of pricey real estate markets. 

“It’s costing more and more, and the need is growing,” said board member Brooke Mohr, who described a Nantucket Housing Trust trip to study Vineyard projects as “fruitful and interesting.” While they have already secured significant housing funds, she said the transfer tax’s passage would be a critical revenue stream.

Chilmark board member Jim Malkin, who also serves on the Housing Bank Review Committee, agreed with her assessment.

The Islands, he said, are “drowning under the weight of money,” though he also highlighted public concerns over housing density and the proliferation of administrative bureaucracy. The committee, he said, will meet with state rep Dylan Fernandes and state Senator Julian Cyr next Monday Oct. 24 to discuss steps for passaging the housing bank.

Short-term rentals, an oft-cited aggravating factor of the housing shortage, were also discussed, with reps from both Islands emphasizing a need for more research. After the passage of a statewide short-term rental tax in 2019, towns on both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have reaped a significant financial windfall. But leaders said it was still hard to plan for and manage the funds with little historical data on revenues, which have varied year-by-year.

“We don’t have the historical predictability to make a forecasted financial decision,” said Edgartown administrator James Hagerty. Efforts to develop that knowledge, said Ms. Mohr, are underway on Nantucket, with a planned registration and licensing system to collect more data.

Other participants discussed possible measures to help with housing shortages, but urged caution at imposing short-term rental restrictions, which many full-time Islanders count on for yearly income.

Coastal resiliency against rising sea levels was also confronted, with research and financing again put forward as areas to address. Mr. Malkin, who is also the SSA rep for the Vineyard, floated the idea that a regional project to work on SSA docks on the Islands and Falmouth might be amenable to state and federal grants.

Nearly 100 people attended Tuesday's approximately 1.5-hour meeting, which leaders hoped to reprise next year. 

Ryan Ruley, chairman of the Oak Bluffs select board, ended the meeting with one project the two Islands won’t be collaborating on: the upcoming Island Cup. “Good luck, welcome to all the Whalers, and go Vineyard of course,” he said.