The town of North Haven is taking steps to address three issues affecting the year-round community:
• access to housing
• economic diversification and workforce development
• environmental sustainability and climate change impacts.
The limits imposed on human, natural, and housing resources on an island intensify these issues drastically.
According to Mia Colloredo-Mansfeld, an Island Institute Island Fellow working with the town on the community vision process that started in late August 2021, the priorities were determined after a community survey and focus group conversations. A vision statement was created from this research.
“A vision statement and some clear priorities around that statement would help us focus and make good choices,” observed Town Administrator Rick Lattimer.
According to a findings report, 137 out of 387 people who participated selected access to housing as their highest priority.
Rex Crockett, 84, who was born on North Haven and has lived here for the last 60 years, said the hot real estate interest is changing the island.
“These houses that come up for sale are just bought by the summer people which takes a home out of the year-round community,” he said.
These houses that come up for sale are just bought by the summer people which takes a home out of the year-round community.”
Davidson Realty currently lists just two available homes on the island, selling for $500,000 and $6.4 million.
Lattimer explained that along with price increases, it is a lot more lucrative to make one’s house available for short-term rentals than longer term year-round rentals. Colloredo-Mansfeld added that on the island there is very limited housing stock, and the housing options that do exist are often not winterized.
To combat the housing crisis, the town is trying to shrink minimum lot size requirements and is applying for state money to support the creation of up to 12 rentable living spaces.
“There needs to be more places to live, especially for young people,” Crockett said.
Economic diversification and workforce development were rated as the second highest priority.
Workforce development priority involves trying to get people, especially young people, trained in the trades, such as plumbing and electrical work. Colloredo-Mansfeld said they are “recognizing that there is a lot of demand for different services that aren’t being met on the island.”
Environmental sustainability and climate change impacts were rated as the third highest priority. According to Lattimer, the island is particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially the village which has buildings just feet from the water. The town hopes to receive state money to fund building improvements to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
One of their first action steps is to make town-owned facilities more sustainable and eco-friendly as well as engaging young people in raising awareness about climate change and helping to reduce its impacts.
Maddie Hallowell, 24, who grew up on the island said, “This work is really important because it shows that the town cares about the
North Haven community and wants to move forward, not fall behind the rest of the world.”
Lattimer explained that no one cares who solves these problems or who gets the credit; it is just important that these issues start getting addressed.
Sophie Hansen is a student at North Haven Community School.