The bumper sticker, with its hardline message about affordable housing, was addressed anonymously to the Nantucket Select Board last week, and it didn’t take long for it to ignite outrage.
“If you want affordable housing, move to Cape Cod where you belong,” the sticker read.
With affordable housing ranking among the state’s most contentious issues, particularly on the Cape and Islands, the exclusive sentiment struck a nerve on Nantucket, where the cost of real estate has surged during the pandemic.
Longtime residents have been priced out, and the scarcity of housing has left schools and businesses struggling to hire workers or keep the ones they have.
“It really infuriates me,” Jason Bridges, chair of the select board, said of the bumper sticker’s mean-spirited message during a meeting on April 26.
In a video of the meeting, he poses a series of questions to the sparse crowd that underscored the financial struggles some residents are facing and their effect on the community.
“Do you like going to Stop & Shop and buying food?” Bridges asked. “Do you like going to the post office and having somebody wait on you so you can mail something? Do you like someone taking your blood at the hospital when you need to get bloodwork if you have a medical issue? Do you like someone filling your propane tank in the winter? Well, we need housing for people to do these things.”
Bridges held up the bumper sticker for the audience to see. Reading the message aloud, he said that even if the phrase “move to Cape Cod” was intended to be funny, it signaled that Nantucket is not a welcoming place.
“It is insensitive at best,” he said. “I just don’t understand why you would think that when there are third-generation Nantucketers that are in affordable housing here and have a family and are secure and safe. So this kind of stuff — I’ll stay professional about it — but it really infuriates me.”
“Of course it was anonymous,” he added. “No one’s going to say who did it.”
The Nantucket Current reported first on the bumper sticker and ensuing debate.
Other board members expressed similar concerns. Brooke Mohr said she was “angry, but mostly sad.”
“That attitude expressed in the bumper sticker makes me mostly sad that there are still people in our community who feel as though some people in our community should somehow be voted off the island,” she said. “They are part of us.”
Of the 25 cities and towns in Massachusetts that saw the largest percentage increase in median home prices over the past five years, 15 are on Cape Cod and the Islands. On Nantucket, the median sale price has climbed from $1.3 million in 2017 to $2.5 million in 2022, a 92 percent jump.
Overall, Nantucket faces a “pervasive housing crisis” that continues to worsen, according to Housing Nantucket, a group seeking “equitable housing solutions for Nantucket’s year-round community.”
Homeownership is prohibitive for “90 percent of year-round residents, and reasonably priced rentals have become nearly extinct,” the organization states on its website. “Nantucket’s expensive homes, limited range of housing, small employment base, and abundance of protected land help to explain its extremes: affluence on one hand, and seasonal workers with very low paying jobs on the other hand.”
This weekend, Nantucket voters will consider a permanent $6.5 million annual tax override for affordable housing projects, the Nantucket Current reported. Over the past five years, residents have voted to allocate more than $67 million in taxpayer funds for such initiatives, according to the newspaper.