Fundraising is nearly complete and construction will soon start on the first phase of an affordable housing project, called Oliver’s Ridge, that’s designed to serve workforce housing needs in Deer Isle and Stonington.
Island Workforce Housing, a nonprofit organization formed in 2018 by Deer Isle and Stonington residents to address a problem of crisis proportions, will start building foundations for five duplex buildings in a location halfway between Deer Isle and Stonington, on 27.5 acres acquired by IWH in 2019.
Each duplex will contain two 900-square-foot, two-bedroom, energy-efficient rental apartments. Site preparation and roadwork began last November.
All together, the capital campaign has received over $975,000 in commitments…
“It’s a large tract of land in a convenient location,” said Henry Teverow, Stonington’s economic development director and an IWH board member. “It’s large enough to site ten units. It’s tucked back, away from the road, which lends the buildings more privacy.”
Half the land will go to clustered housing designed by Bucksport architect John Gordon, and shared space; half will be conserved.
The group recently completed a $25,000 business challenge grant, receiving donations from 58 area businesses. All together, the capital campaign has received over $975,000 in commitments, leaving about $200,000 to raise.
To that end, IWH received a $100,000 matching pledge from part-time island resident Donald Sussman and is now seeking donations for the match.
Deer Isle contractor B.K. Burgess is handling construction.
“It feels good to be creating jobs on the island,” said Teverow.
It’s expected construction could be complete by early 2022. The project is owned by Island Workforce Housing, which is working out details for property management, he said.
Marketing for the rentals will begin closer to completion, he said. There are two priority groups—renters who work on the island but live off-island; and workers who live and work on the island but can’t find affordable year-round rentals.
The project was planned as the first of three phases to construct 30 units overall. Fundraising for the next phase hasn’t begun yet, said Teverow.
In an opinion piece, Matthew Trombley, executive director of Deer Isle’s Island Nursing Home—one of the island’s largest employers—said the scarcity is impacting recruitment of staff and contractors. Over a recent two-month period, the facility lost four registered nurses and eight certified nursing assistants, and was unable to place nearly ten contractors, due to the lack of local affordable housing.
“If we are not able to rectify the housing situation in the area in a marginal time, we may find ourselves unable to fill the capacity of our facility due to inadequate staffing, “ he wrote. “This will greatly affect our local community’s ability to keep their loved ones close at the end years of their lives, requiring many individuals to travel up to three hours away to visit their loved ones.”
The situation has worsened drastically over the past decade, he wrote. Over 50 percent of the staff now lives off-island, including Trombley himself, who travels from over an hour away due to the inability to find nearby housing.
In 2019, an analysis by national consulting firm Camoin Associates concluded the island needed as many as 85 affordable rentals to fill demand. If anything, Teverow said, it’s worse now.
“This pandemic has disrupted so many people’s lives,” he said. “It’s put so many people out of work. People have had to dip into their savings just to get by.”