By Marla O’Byrne
On Tuesday, June 30, residents of Bar Harbor will gather for their annual Town Meeting outdoors in their cars. Not many of us would have predicted this process a year ago, but we are all adapting as community members to get our business done while doing all we can to keep our Mount Desert Island neighbors healthy and our communities strong.
MDI’s year-round residents are crucial to the resilience of our communities. They are the employers, employees, volunteers, customers and emergency responders who make our communities work. We need our neighbors here year-round for our fire departments, hospital, schools, grocery stores and so many more resources we rely on.
Island Housing Trust has been a leader in creating year-round housing opportunities for 30 years, to support resilient, strong island communities on MDI. Our Home Ownership Assistance Program (HOAP) is one of our most versatile and cost-effective tools to get people into year-round homes. HOAP responds to the reality that coming up with cash for a down payment is often the only obstacle to a year-round household trying to buy a home on MDI. Since HOAP was established in 2010, IHT has provided more than $430,000 toward the purchase of 16 homes with HOAP funding in all four towns. With covenants guiding resale, HOAP homes stay affordable for eligible buyers into the future.
Earlier this year, IHT asked the towns of Mount Desert, Southwest Harbor and Tremont to support our HOAP program; residents of each town will vote on our request at their upcoming annual meetings. At Bar Harbor’s Town Meeting next Tuesday, IHT will come before the residents of Bar Harbor to ask them to vote to grant $5,000 to support HOAP.
The average HOAP funding award is $27,000. IHT is asking each town on MDI to contribute to HOAP because all of our funding is raised through donations and grants, but of equal importance is the demonstration of each town’s commitment to promoting year-round housing in their community. Our MDI towns and residents have been so supportive over the years as we’ve researched and developed various programs, and we are grateful for the partnership. A contribution from all four towns will be leveraged with grants and donations to help median–income households live where they work, and add to the resilience of our communities.
Every HOAP property builds the portfolio of protected year-round homes, keeping our year-round neighborhoods more intact, allowing employees to live where they work and put their kids in a school nearby, and fostering a strong base of workers to keep our communities’ emergency responders, customers for year-round businesses and volunteers. Considering what it means to all of us as neighbors, it’s a low-cost investment in our year-round communities.
Marla O’Byrne is the Executive Director of Island Housing Trust