The Working Waterfront

A room of one’s own

Island group’s housing work pays off

By Courtney Naliboff
Posted 2023-10-31
Last Modified 2023-10-31

Whatever the subject matter of my column is, the overarching theme is always life on North Haven. As Bill and I enter our 19th year on this little unbridged slice of heaven (most of the time), I’ve had occasion to think about the number one, bottom line condition that makes our lives here possible.

It’s not our jobs, though we love and appreciate them—work is plentiful on the island, and remote work is becoming more common. It’s not our friends, whom we cherish and often depend on—the world is full of wonderful people. It’s not even the natural beauty and access to the water that I treasure and so often write about.

It’s housing. And not just any housing. It’s year-round housing that a couple of public school teachers can afford.

The catch was that we had to move out from late June to early September.

When Bill and I moved to North Haven in 2005, we were given the opportunity to rent a beautiful new property overlooking the North Shore. We could easily afford it, and it had more than enough room for the two of us and our records and instruments, and it was more than a small step up from the slovenly (in my case) or sterile (in Bill’s) apartments we had inhabited in Boston.

The catch was that we had to move out from late June to early September.

Our first summer, we moved everything but a suitcase of clothes and toiletries into my classroom and moved into an in-law apartment above a coworker’s studio, a total of two moves for the summer. Our second summer, we moved into a downtown rental, out of the rental and into a cabin for three weeks while the owners were on-island, back into the rental, and finally into our own home—a punishing four moves in ten weeks.

What made that last move a joy was that we were moving into the home we had purchased through North Haven Sustainable Housing, its first property.

Applying for and purchasing that home was truly the one thing that kept us on the island, rather than pursuing our loosely discussed dreams of moving to Japan or New Zealand (why not?). Having a home made it feel feasible to have a child, to create a recording studio, to grow flowers and vegetables.

We’re even adding on to the house, building an office with a door that I can close when I need to, a space that I hope will foster more and better writing.

But even as Bill and Penrose and I enjoy the privilege of housing that allows us to really inhabit the island, many on North Haven still bounce from seasonal rental to seasonal rental. They’re eager to settle here, to contribute to the community in a lasting and meaningful way, but are stymied by what is often a complete lack of homes for sale, let alone homes that are affordable for the average employee at a nonprofit or boatyard or school.

As Virginia Woolf explicitly states, one needs a room of one’s own in order to do good works—how much more challenging if one doesn’t even have a house in which to put that room.

North Haven Sustainable Housing’s mission to fill that housing gap continues, and through their rentals and properties available for purchase they have housed several island families. Their next project, several stick-built homes between our property and the town park, is currently in the fundraising stage, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that they succeed (so consider donating!).

The island has an abundance of talented, energetic young people and families who want to be here. Without rooms in houses of their own, they might depart for Japan, or New Zealand, or even just the mainland, and what a loss that would be for us all.

Courtney Naliboff teaches writing, theater, and music on North Haven. She may be reached at