Three news stories in last week’s Islander give hope that communities and organizations on Mount Desert Island are moving into a new, more expansive phase to address the lack of year-round housing.
In Northeast Harbor, where the number of homes occupied year-round has plummeted in the last decade, the new nonprofit Mount Desert 365 has placed four undeveloped parcels of land under contract. That group’s ambitious goal is to create more than 150 affordable year-round homes throughout Mount Desert in the coming years.
Also last week, the Island Housing Trust announced that it had reached a deal with the conservation group, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, to develop some upland property near a protected marsh in Bar Harbor for year-round housing. The trust has enjoyed steady success over the years developing its Ripple Road subdivision, along with other single-home successes. Its symposium earlier this year at the MDI Biological Laboratory undoubtedly helped galvanize much of the current enthusiasm.
And in Southwest Harbor, private developer William Patten began guiding his proposed townhouse development in that village through the planning board process. Patten hopes to price the homes within the reach of area families.
Combined with past efforts, such as the Northeast Creek development undertaken by the Bar Harbor Housing Authority, all this activity suggests there likely will be no single, one-size-fits-all answer to the island’s housing crisis. In addition to making individual, free-standing homes available, housing efforts need to consider town home units and rental apartments to help address the need for folks at every stage of life and career.
These latest projects will help address the deep demand exacerbated by casual rentals like Airbnb. Their cumulative effect is a powerful statement that the people of this island, both year-round residents and members of the summer community, whose generosity has made much of this possible, do intend to act. Every new success generates hope and opportunity for those searching for affordable year-round housing.