Eliakim's Way, West Tisbury

West Tisbury, a small community on Martha’s Vineyard, has used its CPA funds to develop a number of affordable housing options for residents over the years, but its recent Eliakim’s Way project challenges the convential wisdom on community housing. The project, a LEED Platinum certified eight-unit affordable housing project, furthers the mission of affordability by reducing or entirely eliminating utility bills for its homeowners.  LEED Platinum, the highest LEED certification level, is often associated with high-end buildings. But as all eight Eliakim’s Way units are proving through their net-zero or near net-zero energy use, green technologies make these units champions of affordable living.

Each Eliakim’s Way unit has a roof with solar panels that produces electrical energy, while superinsulation, triple-glazed windows, and heat pumps increase energy efficiency. For Eliakim’s Way, net-zero means that over the course of a year a unit’s solar panels can produce as much or more energy than the residents use to power their homes. This year, two units went net-zero, and sold their excess energy back to the utilities. If the other households continue to reduce their energy use, the neighborhood could be completely energy self-sufficient by next year.

West Tisbury’s CPA dollars were a major component of the funding package for Eliakim’s Way, though other local organizations joined in to complete the $3.4 million dollar affordable housing project. The land for the project was provided by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, a local land conservancy, which partnered with the Island Housing Trust (IHT) to acquire 27 acres of land and set aside four of those acres for Eliakim’s Way.

Once the land and funding were secured, the South Mountain Company (SMC) of West Tisbury, known for green buildings on the Vineyard, designed and constructed the project. The West Tisbury CPC explicitly earmarked the units for low to moderate income recipients, and placed a restriction on the land which ensured their perpetual affordability. Ultimately, the Community Preservation Committee exceeded Island Housing Trust’s original $400,000 funding request to bring down the purchase price of two more units, in order to develop a total of six affordable units.

Finally, in May 2010, families with winning lottery numbers moved in to their new homes. Tony Nevin of the West Tisbury CPC says that “[Eliakim’s Way] appears to be a model of its kind both for energy efficiency and for the collaboration of different forces and different institutions that made it happen,” though he added “it’s likely that [West Tisbury] would not have supported this project if it had not been for CPA money.”

For the Eliakim’s Way homeowners and West Tisbury community members as a whole, the project is a beacon of sustainable, affordable housing which has proved the power of local collaboration.

Eliakim’s Way by the Numbers

  • 7 major players: The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, Island Housing Trust, West Tisbury Community Preservation Committee, South Mountain Company of West Tisbury, Island Affordable Housing Fund (provided major private funding), Habitat of Humanity of Martha’s Vineyard (constructed one of the units), and Cape Light Compact.
  • 4 acres for housing, surrounded by 23 acres of open space
  • 5.04kW Photovoltaic array per unit
  • $175,000-$295,000 range in cost for one unit
  • 80%-120% of area median income: maximum income of eligible residents
  • $570,000: total CPA investment
    • $22K: for the interest on the land
    • $48K: overhead and legal
    • $500K: design, material, and labor
  • $630,000: amount raised by the Island Affordable Housing Fund in private funds
  • $500,000: Green Affordable Homes grant from Cape Light Compact
  • $3.4 million: total cost of Eliakim’s Way
  • 3 years: the project’s total timeline

This article was made possible with the cooperation of Tony Nevin, Administrative Assistant of the West Tisbury CPC, Philippe Jordi, Executive Director of the Island Housing Trust, and John Abrams, President and CEO of the South Mountain Company.