A question of committment

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 7:30pm

You know you are on Block Island when, no matter what the topic of conversation, it ends up being about housing (or, especially after the week we’ve had, transportation). That’s probably self-evident from the number of stories and editorials we’ve written on the subject over the past few weeks.

The fact is that the Island does have a housing problem, one that has grown over the years despite the well-intended and laborious efforts of volunteer committees and governmental agencies. And it is clear that there is no simple, immediate solution.

In some ways, we have the best of everything, and sometimes, the worst of everything. We have a system that helps to pay for conserving the wonders of the island, and a tax system that helps to pay for affordable housing.

The 3 percent transaction tax on real estate sales has been spectacularly effective. We are closing in on 50 percent of all land here under conservation — an effort some would call miraculous. This will guarantee the beauty of the island in its original form for decades to come.

Meanwhile, plans are being finalized for an additional five units of affordable housing in the Cherry Hill Lane plan. When completed, there will be five less families that have been “housing deficient” for many years — often forced to move with the changing of the weather. Winter housing available in many places; summer housing, well, good luck on that.

No matter if you are a once-a-year visitor with a summer home, or a year-round resident who must move every May and September, it’s likely you want a stable community with happy neighbors providing and using quality services year-round. But you can’t without the availability of quality affordable housing 12 months of the year.

You could say we are victims of our own success. It’s time to figure out what has to be done, and how we are to do it. How many people need housing? What can we do to provide it? How long will it take?

Most importantly, are we — each of us — truly committed to maintaining and improving life on the island?