Martha’s Vineyard public school employees could receive preference in applying to rent eight apartments Island Housing Trust is planning to build in West Tisbury, if the nonprofit is able to fund the project.

“This is new for us,”  IHT executive director Philippe Jordi told the Gazette this week.

State grants generally are not available for public housing with employee preferences, Mr. Jordi said, so the trust would need to look for support from Island towns through their individual Community Preservation Act and housing trust funds.

Earlier this month, he asked both the all-Island school committee and the regional high school committee to back the funding requests, if the proposal moves forward.

“We’re hoping the towns see it’s in their best interest to support this,” Mr. Jordi said.

The location of the proposed neighborhood, a three-acre parcel at 48 Old Courthouse Road, was donated to the housing trust last year by William Cumming.

Mr. Cumming attended Island schools and wanted to contribute in return by making more housing available for school employees, Mr. Jordi said.

“We’re looking at trying to realize that vision, and that involves working directly with the school system,” he said.

Mr. Jordi has been meeting with superintendent of schools Richard (Richie) Smith and Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School head Peter (Pete) Steedman, as well as the all-Island and regional high school committees and the charter school board, to discuss the mechanics of the proposal.

Design work for the apartments is underway and the trust plans to begin seeking permits this fall, Mr. Jordi said.

Once they are ready to occupy, the trust could transfer management in one of three ways: to the Dukes County Housing Authority; via a five-year master lease, as it has done with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for the seven-apartment Perlman House in Vineyard Haven; or by selling the property outright.

Given the Island school system’s tightly-pared finances, the first option is expected to prevail, with the housing trust handling applications and confirming school employment.

The apartments will be created with or without school employee preferences, Mr. Jordi said.
“It could be yet another rental property, [but] we want to explore, fully, this possibility,” he said.