Affordable & Workforce Housing | Connected Community Forum

Blue Hill | March 26, 2019 | Community Compass held its Connected Community Forum on Affordable Housing. Speakers included housing experts and concerned volunteers from around the state, presenting a broad range of perspectives on the problem. 

Keynote speaker Cullen Ryan (Executive Director, Community Housing of Maine) noted the significant unmet need throughout the state, and spoke about various challenges and opportunities Maine could pursue to address the issue. 

Duane Bartlett (Executive Director, MDI & Ellsworth Housing Authority) spoke about their focus on workforce housing, noting that the cost of housing now exceeds the ability of many year round workers, including shop keepers, trades people, teachers, and law enforcement to find affordable housing. Their goal is to develop workforce housing. MDIHA is working with conservation trusts which often acquire conservation lands that include some of the developable land appropriate for workforce housing. 

Rosa Moore (Board Member, Covenant Community Land Trust) talked about the use of Land Trust model to create affordable housing. CCLT owns land in Dedham, Sedgwick, Bucksport, Orland, and Franklin, which is devoted to affordable housing. 

Erica Veazie (Attorney, Pine Tree Legal) talked about services they provide for clients. Much of their real estate work relates to landlord-tenant issues, particularly representing clients who are being evicted from apartments for non-payment of rent.

Tim Tunney (Bar Harbor Bank and Trust) spoke of the challenges of creating new housing units. With higher costs of building materials, it is increasingly difficult to create new housing that generates suitable return for builders. He also spoke of the interest of lenders to invest in communities and their general receptiveness to working with developers to create new housing units. 

Michael Wood (Island Workforce Housing) echoed many of the housing affordability concerns that pertain to Mount Desert Island. The price of real estate has become so high that participants in the local workforce are challenged to find properties to buy or rent. The Island Workforce Housing is working on a survey of housing needs and resources with the hope of increasing the supply of affordable housing for the DIS workforce. 

The Affordable Housing Forum underscored the fact that affordable housing is an issue throughout the state, not just in our region. Bipartisan legislation currently pending in Augusta would “create over 1,000 additional affordable homes over four years, doubling Maine’s current rate of production.”