A realm of possibilities

Fri, 04/22/2022 - 3:00am

The following was sent to the Block Island Land Trust and copied to The Times:
As a volunteer for Block Island Attainable/Affordable Housing (BIAAH), I have been on the receiving end of many stories of people that we all probably know, who have no reasonably secure housing. These are yearround residents, some who work for the town, some who are independent business people, etc. Yesterday, as I hope you are aware, nine people lost their year-round housing, including four school-age children. They lost their housing to a corporation that kicked them out to make room for their seasonal employees.
The housing situation becomes more critical with each property encumbered under the current language you operate, and your funds increase with the increasing cost of property. It is a nasty, self-defeating situation that we find ourselves in. I believe you have failed to recognize the problem, but worse, if you did, you failed to act effectively, or at least more effectively.
It is an economic truism, and a mathematical fact that unless this language is changed, however unintended, you will continue to increasingly exacerbate the lack of AAH on Block Island. I feel this is indisputable. Therefore, it is my opinion and most likely many others, that the current system you operate under needs to change and change very, very soon.
I am thankful for our meeting several months ago, and that you collectively have historically participated in doing what you felt you could to support AAH. You have effectively stated that you cannot lead, and cannot do much different with respect to this issue, which is most likely where we diverge. Since our first meeting, I had hoped you would hold discussions on what changes could be made to be a constructive part of addressing AAH. I have not seen anything that indicated you have done so, but I definitely could have missed it.
I have always asked people not just to bring me problems, but to also present possible solutions for consideration. To that approach, I am suggesting the following:
-Purchase no more additional land, unless there is a mechanism to release land for AAH.
-State when your conservation mission of buying and encumbering land will be considered complete, that is when will this sunset. It is acknowledged that you will always be stewards of land.
-After careful and thorough review, determine if you can approach those who bequeathed land to determine if any of it can be used for AAH.
-Reallocate the 3 percent in some fashion to fund AAH.
-Advocate for an additional 2 percent, reaching your 5-percent cap, with the 2 percent to fund AAH.
-Devise language that the town and the state could support to make the future mission of BILT (trusts et al) towards land stewardship and AAH.
I do believe you have more and perhaps more effective ideas than I just presented and I hope we see them within the next two months. If not, then many people would have to question why did you not. It would be tone deaf, and turning a blind eye to this crisis, and we would be justified in asking where does this intransigence emanate? It is not that we are singling out the trusts, we also feel the Housing Board and Planning (and the Town Council by extension) have similar requirements to act. The Town Council does seem to be motivated. Planning has allocated nearly zero attention to the issue, however the Housing Board seems to be moving towards a more proactive position with respect to rentals.
The land trusts hold a tremendous position in being able to facilitate AAH and we are asking you to move on this very quickly. I am sure someone else could use less direct language, but that person is not here, and I am, so this is what you get.
Thank you,
Chris Warfel