MOUNT DESERT — Elected officials from Acadia-area towns have identified the need for more affordable, year-round housing as one of the issues they want the League of Towns board to address in the coming year.
“The list of folks who need our assistance is ever growing,” Alison Beane, executive director of Island Housing Trust (IHT), told the roughly 25 elected municipal officials at the league’s annual priority-setting meeting last Thursday at the Somesville fire station.
IHT is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help provide affordable housing for people who work on Mount Desert Island.
Beane said an IHT survey found that about 70 percent of people currently working on MDI live off the island. She said many of those people could afford houses in the $250,000 range, but the average cost of a house in Bar Harbor is about $400,000.
IHT announced earlier this year that it was considering an offer from Maine Coast Heritage Trust to buy land near the head of the island for 12-15 single-family homes. She recently told the Islander that IHT is still evaluating the property and the feasibility of the project.
The elected officials also heard from Kathy Miller, executive director of the nonprofit Mount Desert 365, which is working to provide more workforce housing in Northeast Harbor. She said high prices and the increasing number of seasonal homes are keeping people, especially young families, from living there.
A shrinking year-round population also takes its toll on local businesses.
Miller said Mount Desert 365 is trying to educate people about the benefits of buying locally, but noted that it is hard to fight the convenience of big box stores or delivery services.
In addition to affordable housing, the municipal officials decided that the priority issues for the League of Towns next year should be traffic congestion, municipal collaboration in public safety, the opiod epidemic and tick-borne illnesses.
New dog for Sherriff’s Office
Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane introduced the municipal officials to Finn, an 18-month-old Belgian Malinois, and his handler, Deputy Travis Frost.
The sheriff’s office was able to acquire Finn to help with searches after someone called several months ago to ask why the sheriff’s office didn’t have K-9 unit. A few weeks later, four donors who wished to remain anonymous gave $20,000 to cover the cost of Finn’s training.
“We have to have this kind of help,” Kane said. “We appreciate it very much.”
The League of Towns members are Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor, Tremont, Trenton, Lamoine, Ellsworth, Cranberry Isles, Swans Island and Acadia National Park.