The Working Waterfront

Vinalhaven takes action on housing

Nonprofit forms to investigate solutions

Posted 2023-10-03
Last Modified 2023-10-03

The Vinalhaven Housing Initiative (VHI) has been established to create year-round affordable, sustainable housing options for decent and safe housing that is affordable to lower- and middle-income individuals and families, senior citizens, and physically challenged people who would otherwise be unable to afford rental or homes due to rapidly escalating prices.

The housing organization is an IRS approved, 501c (3) non-profit organization which is eligible to receive tax deductible contributions. It is working in partnership with Vinalhaven’s town government and community organizations to obtain funding, building sites, and the rehabilitation of selected housing.

In late 2020, the town’s board of selectmen established a housing committee in response to the need for an increased supply of year-round and updated existing housing. VHI was created as a direct result of the housing committee’s work.

Housing committee members communicated directly with the staff and board members of several other Maine island housing non-profit organizations and became convinced that a not-for-profit housing initiative was the most expedient way to address the housing crisis on Vinalhaven.

Like similar non-profits, VHI will be funded predominantly through private donations from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government grants.

There are many typical situations that illustrate the challenges faced by those who need decent, affordable year-round housing on Vinalhaven.

For example:

• People wish to come to Vinalhaven for jobs critical to the island—police, medical, teachers. With no housing available the community cannot benefit from their much needed skills and talents.
• Rentals with no hot water or heating.
• Several generations of islanders living in the same home because there are no other housing options.
• Elders on limited incomes in older housing that is hard to heat, maintain, and is not adapted to their physical needs.
• Young islanders are moving away because of the lack of housing.

VHI is assessing a variety of housing types that could meet the need: single family and duplex modular homes, tiny houses, multi-units in new apartment structures or renovated buildings with both rental and ownership options.

It is reviewing possible building sites that could be acquired through donation or purchase. Sites with town water and sewer are the most desirable for accessibility and to keep construction costs down.

Affordable housing is critically needed to sustain Vinalhaven as a functioning year-round island community. Island economies are like a delicate fabric. If one thread is pulled out the fabric begins to unravel.

There are many essential community needs including: safety and security, food, supplies, medical care, education, maintenance of public buildings and private homes. If the people who provide these functions cannot be housed safely and affordably, the whole community, year-round and seasonal, feels the effects.

Currently, the VHI board of directors is in formation and seeking additional members and advisors. For inquiries or more information, please contact Elin Elisofon at (207) 450-1937 or (207) 867-4866.