The Housing Situation on Martha's Vineyard

 Housing Situation on MVMartha’s Vineyard’s year-round community’s demographics and housing needs are far different from the Island’s image of wealth and plenty. The population is getting older as young families leave, and it includes a large number of low-income households. With elderly residents on fixed incomes and younger wage-earners working in lower paying service-sector jobs, more than a quarter of all Vineyard households were earning less than $35,000 in 2010. The numbers and percentages of people living in poverty on the Island have also been rising.

The challenges to establishing a secure residence on Martha’s Vineyard have become insurmountable for a growing segment of the population, including a majority of those who grew up here, many skilled and well paid workers, and older households of moderate income.

2020 Update to the Housing Needs Assessment

Reasons for the Housing Situation

Several factors appear to be contributing to the affordability crisis on the Vineyard.
  • The growing population and the finite size of the Island mean that there is increasing development pressure. Much of the Island has already been built up and there is considerable demand, for both development and conservation purposes, for the remaining available land.
  • As with other seasonal tourist areas, permanent residents must compete with vacation renters or homebuyers. Second-home buyers can outbid year-round residents wanting to purchase homes. Many tenants do not have stable year-round housing and are required to do the "Island shuffle", vacating their winter housing between May and September, so that owners can rent those accommodations at higher summer rates.
  • Seasonal workers further add to the pressure for housing during the tourist season.

Affordability Gap

The housing affordability gap – the difference between median home costs and what a family can afford on a median income – is dauntingly large both for ownership and rental.
  • The housing boom of the 1970s and 80s slowed in the last two decades, and more than two-thirds of all new housing produced from 1990 to 2010 was built for seasonal or occasional use. When houses built for year-round families during the boom years change hands, the buyers are most often seasonal residents who can afford current market rates. Demand for seasonal housing has pushed prices beyond the means of most year-round residents.
  • The resulting affordability gap is dauntingly large. While the Island’s average weekly wage was only 71% of the state average, the median home price was 54% above the state’s. This translates into an affordability gap of $225,000 in September of 2012, when the median home value on the Vineyard was $535,000 but the average Islander could afford only $310,000. This is the Vineyard’s housing affordability problem in a nutshell.
  • Island rents are similarly high: the median rent exceeded the state’s by 17%. The 2013 Housing Needs Assessment found that year-round rentals are largely beyond the reach of residents earning less than the median household income of $62,407. Winter rentals might be more affordable, but individuals and families who rent these units risk becoming homeless during the summer.

Making Progress

Since the 2001 publication of the Island’s first assessment of housing needs, Preserving Community, a great deal of hard work, strong community commitments and collaboration, and a substantial investment of local resources has produced a significant amount of affordable housing, The Island has seen development of about 300 affordable and community housing units. Approximately another hundred units are subsidized through the Dukes County Regional Housing Authority’s Rental Assistance Program and rental vouchers.  Additionally, the establishment of town Affordable Housing Committees and Affordable Housing Trusts, as well as the passage of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) have enhanced the capacity of each town to provide more affordable housing. But much more work needs to be done to address pressing housing needs.

Today's Unmet Housing Needs

Today, the housing needs that are not well served by market-rate housing include the following.
  • Affordable Housing: Permanently deed-restricted, year-round housing affordable to individuals and families earning up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI, as determined annually by HUD).
  • Community Housing: Permanently deed-restricted, year-round housing affordable up to 150% AMI.
  • Workforce Housing: Year-round or seasonal housing used by working people.
  • Housing for Seniors and Those Needing Assisted Living: This includes a range of level of assistance for the elderly as well as for people with mental and physical handicaps.
  • Homeless: Island residents without housing.



Office location:

Office location:

The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
Fax: 508-693-7894

Mailing Address

Mailing address:

Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

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