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Philanthropy A to Z

I – Island Housing Trust

Text by Elizabeth Kastelein

“Crisis has a way of sharpening focus and bringing into stark relief the things that matter,” says Philippe Jordi, Executive Director of Island Housing Trust. Island Housing Trust (IHT), a nonprofit community land trust located on Martha’s Vineyard, aims to support a diverse community by offering affordable housing for rent and ownership across the six towns on the Island.

Martha’s Vineyard has a significant affordable housing problem. In fact, Harvard’s State of the Nation’s Housing report reveals that Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most cost-burdened areas in the state of Massachusetts. While average weekly wages are 29% below the state average, rents are consistently 30% over the state median and home prices are 54% above the median. 

Within the past 15 years, Island Housing Trust has sold and rented 102 homes and apartments to low and moderate income families on Martha’s Vineyard. IHT not only leads new construction projects towards this end, but also repurposes existing buildings to create pocket neighborhoods. IHT’s building strategy prioritizes green practices that conserve energy and make homes affordable to heat, cool, and generally maintain. By the end of 2020, they hope to create 100 new affordable homes to offer to this vibrant community.

“We work to conserve land because people and land are both worth preserving,” remarks Jordi, expressing IHT’s community-oriented mission. “Our homeowners and renters illustrate their resilience with their determination to remain on-island, building purposeful lives for their families and community. They do meaningful work and volunteer; they own businesses; they fish, and farm and educate their kids; they pay mortgages, property taxes, rent and utilities.”

Jordi’s professional experience as a community planner and developer has led him to serve in various locations around the globe from West Africa to the Pacific Northwest to finally, Martha’s Vineyard. He emphasizes the importance of preserving the meaning of “place” in his work, which is a goal that IHT cultivates through their people-oriented approach. “I love working with passionate and creative people to solve complex and seemingly intractable problems that have the impact of changing people’s lives,” says Jordi.

According to Jordi, housing stability and security are more important than ever. As David Sprague, an IHT Workforce Housing Partner, remarks, “Every community needs people…if we don’t do something to fund housing, we’re all going to be seasonal and our community will go away.”

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