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Updated: November 18, 2021

$400K challenge grant to help MDI housing trust build affordable homes

COURTESY / ISLAND HOUSING TRUST A $400,000 challenge grant is expected to support construction of Bar Harbor-based Island Housing Trust’s 10-unit affordable housing development.

A $400,000 challenge grant could be a boost to plans for new affordable housing on Mount Desert Island, where Bar Harbor and other towns grapple with the conversion of homes to vacation rentals, resulting in a shortage of affordable, year-round housing.

Island Housing Trust announced Wednesday that the grant, from an anonymous donor, will match dollar-for-dollar all donations received through the end of the year to Coming Home: Island Housing Trust’s Campaign for Mount Desert Island.

The money will be used to support the completion of the trust’s Jones Marsh affordable housing project and other trust priorities. 

The campaign has raised over $2.8 million in gifts and pledges toward its $3.5 million goal.

“This grant and the gifts raised to meet the challenge will allow us to exceed our goals, so we can do even more to provide year-round housing on MDI,” Marla O’Byrne, the trust’s executive director, said in a news release.

Jones Marsh is planned as a year-round neighborhood of 10 energy-efficient homes on approximately seven acres near the head of Mount Desert Island. It will include two duplexes to provide a range of price points for ownership. The expected project cost is $1.5 million. 

The trust received site plan approval from the town of Bar Harbor for Jones Marsh, and has submitted permit applications to begin building the neighborhood road, to be called Salt Meadow Lane, off Route 3 in Bar Harbor. 

“Our goal is to have the first home ready to place by early summer 2022,” O’Byrne told Mainebiz. “We have been working with Showcase Homes in Brewer to design energy-efficient modular homes — six single-family houses, and two duplex buildings with four units total.”

Other priorities include increasing funding for the trust’s home ownership assistance program, which assists qualified home buyers of existing island homes with down payments; and building an opportunity fund to enable the trust to act quickly when new opportunities arise to acquire land or affordable homes.

According to the trust’s website, a lack of affordable, year-round housing on MDI was already critical before the pandemic. The problem was exacerbated by a spike in out-of-state residents purchasing homes in Maine. The housing shortage affects businesses, with large employers such as MDI Hospital and Jackson Laboratory saying that the lack of affordable housing affects recruitment and long-term employment. 

“Housing that is affordable to MDI’s teachers, first responders, and the people who staff our many amazing businesses and organizations benefits everyone who calls this island home, no matter the time of year,” said Peter Rogers, campaign co-chair and a trust board member. 

Island Housing Trust is a Bar Harbor nonprofit that promotes permanent workforce housing on Mount Desert Island.

Since 2003, the trust has completed 48 homeownership projects. The trust holds covenants on 37 homes, and has overseen the re-sale of several of the properties at below market rate to qualified households working on MDI. 

Click here for more information or contact the trust at 207-244-8011 or 

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