BAR HARBOR — Houses were flying through the air at the Jones Marsh neighborhood last week, marking another milestone for the latest Island Housing Trust project.
Four single-family modular homes and one duplex unit were brought from Showcase Homes of Maine in Brewer and anchored to their foundations off Route 3. The next stage of the construction process will be mounting the roof and installing exterior siding before interior renovations begin.
“Our goal is to have the houses finished and ready for occupancy by the end of the year,” said IHT Executive Director Marla O’Bryne.
Since 2003, IHT has developed housing at below market rate for median income earners on the Island, who are unable to afford typical real estate prices, which now reach upward of $700,000.
“We have a real need for that median income workforce,” said O’Bryne. “It’s that kind of missing middle that doesn’t qualify for state or federal support and can’t operate in the market.”
O’Bryne stated that without readily available affordable housing, public servants and first responders are pushed farther and farther away from community borders and ultimately end up relocating. Over time, this migration results in declining quality of life for the area’s residents.
Fourteen eager homeowners applied for the 10 available units, four of which will be installed next year. Their occupations range from health care provider to park services to a public school teacher.
IHT retains ownership of the land but sells the house to the occupants. Appreciation occurs when median income increases. This land lease model ensures the property remains affordable for the workforce when the homeowner decides to sell it.
“It’s the opportunity to live in the house, build equity, have some return in growth of value, and then hopefully be able to move into the next house that fits your needs,” said O’Bryne.
The single-family homes will be approximately 1,500 square feet and cost $295,000. Eligible household incomes were capped at 130 percent of area median income, or $98,410 for these units.
Each duplex unit will measure about 900 square feet and have a sale price of $219,000. Eligible household incomes were capped at 100 percent of area median income, or $75,700 for the duplex units.
The Jones Marsh location totals 30 acres but only eight are used for the building lot. The rest of the 22 acres are protected wetlands. Maine Coast Heritage Trust, a land conservation nonprofit that sold the land to IHT, recognized the area as part of a larger watershed to be preserved.
“You want to protect what’s vital for the long-term health of the communities,” O’Bryne said, “and that’s both environmental and people.”
IHT closed on the property with the LLC side of MCHT in 2018, as part of a partnership purchase to jointly fundraise for the acquisition. IHT then launched a capital campaign to support the completion of the 10-home project and two other goals.
Those include creating an opportunities fund to easily acquire land and affordable homes and a home ownership assistance program providing down payment assistance to qualified buyers.
In total, IHT raised $3.7 million from various groups and large donors. They ended the campaign in December and contacted Showcase Homes in early January with the floor plans and designs.
Though every unit at Jones Marsh has been filled with a potential buyer, that hasn’t decreased the demand for more affordable workforce housing. Currently, IHT has
a general queue of 40 interested families, including those for the newest neighborhood.
O’Bryne said her team is making headway for phase three plans at Ripples Hill neighborhood. Located off the Beech Hill Road in Somesville, the subdivision currently comprises 9 units of its 19-home capacity. Construction of an additional 9-10 homes will complete the third and final phase of the house plan.
“We’re looking at other projects as well with other landowners who are interested in trying to be part of making the community stronger,” O’Bryne said.