~ by C. Oscar Olson ~
Every community, especially small-town tight-knit communities like Nantucket, will periodically experience growing pains. Whether they come in the form of a stumbling economy or traffic gridlock, the people must come together to find a solution.
With regards to growing pains, one of the most persistent and biggest issues facing the community has to do with housing. For better or worse, much of the land on Nantucket has been set aside for conservation, making new construction a rare opportunity. That makes housing very limited and, in turn, extraordinarily expensive. It often takes fresh eyes and a new perspective to see through the fog of bureaucracy and building codes, and thanks to a group called the Young Creatives, it looks like positive change is on the horizon for Nantucket.
According to Laura Cunningham, a member of the Young Creatives, they are “a tribe of socially focused and driven young professionals who host events in community spaces that allow our members to share their creative talents.” Using think tanks, members work to overcome some of the biggest challenges facing Nantucket today. And despite their title, they are not defined by age. Young Creatives is a diverse group that shares a fresh, youthful view, and positive outlook common among those of us who are young at heart. They depend heavily on creativity in any endeavor.
Lack of housing for permanent residents of Nantucket is becoming a crisis. This is clear to Laura and the Young Creatives. As a result of this, they have created The Nantucket Cooperative Project, or TNCP. Working as a nonprofit corporation, it is the goal of the NCP to provide affordable housing to Nantucketers under the age of 34.
Why 34 years of age or younger? According to the Pew Research center, Millennials have surpassed baby boomers as America’s largest generation . Millennials, those defined in 2015 as being between the ages of 18-34, are not only the largest percentage of the population, but a percentage that continues to grow as young immigrants to move into the United States. The middle and working classes are the crux of any community. Young Creatives are bringing to light the fact that this demographic is the most at risk, and helping them stay on the island is a direct benefit to the town and local economy. “We’re going to lose our community if we don’t have affordable housing,” says Justin Taylor, a member of Young Creatives.
To do this, TNCP will utilize donations to purchase and eventually maintain multiple large single- family dwellings and multiple building properties. These houses will provide low-priced group, or communal, style housing for year-round residents of Nantucket. Simply put, members of TNCP donate the equity to the nonprofit they would otherwise accrue through paying rent. Over time this will pay off the mortgage of the property. This sort of structure ensures that TNCP is able to maintain affordable rentals for years to come. In an ideal situation, rent would be around $1,500 a month for each resident: a cost comparable to most other cities and towns around the commonwealth.
Ultimately, this kind of communal living will fill a void on the island, providing stable housing and eventually ownership to the at-risk millennial demographic. Since 2-3 bedroom homes are currently in high demand, TNCP has plans to purchase larger properties that can house 10 renters or more. Decision making concerning each of the houses, residents, and the non-profit as a whole will be democratic. Each member of TNCP will have equal voting rights. One member, one vote.
This model has not only been proven effective in other parts of the country, but also in the state of Massachusetts. Our capital city of Boston has been facing a similar housing dilemma for decades. As a result, the Boston Community Cooperatives, or BCC, became a reality. They are also a non-profit formed to help build communities through cooperative living. They depend on member education, neighborhood improvement, and collective action to ensure democratically controlled and affordable residential cooperatives. TNCP is working closely with the BCC and using the success of cooperative housing in Boston as a model for Nantucket.
Though TNCP has not acquired any property just yet, they do have their eyes on one. With any luck, they will be on the path to purchasing it as soon as the funds have been raised. The group needs 10% of the total cost, which will be about $160,000. For now, raising money is being put on the back burner. “We have decided to focus more on securing lenders for now and less on donations,” says Justin. As far as future donations are concerned, the NCP is currently planning a fundraising event in late August. Stay tuned to the Young Creatives and Yesterday’s Island for details on the event.