Duplex to expand affordable housing choices on Chebeague Island

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — The town will be able to provide more year-round affordable housing opportunities this year, thanks to the planned construction of a duplex on School House Road.

The building, which will have two rental units and stand on 3.4 acres, will be made possible largely by a $350,000 grant from the Maine State Housing Authority.

The Chebeague Island Community Association applied for the funds after MSHA’s announcement of a bond issue for affordable housing and energy, which included $2 million for unconnected islands, according to Beth Howe, chairwoman of CICA’s housing committee. She said state guidelines focused on multi-family rental housing.

“One of the problems we have is that there’s not much rental housing, particularly for young people who want to come out here and see what it’s like to live on Chebeague,” Howe said last week. “Usually what happens is, you live in somebody’s summer house during the winter, and then when they come to use it in the summer, you have to find someplace else.”

Howe added that “year-round rental housing is really, for us, something that there’s not much of, and that there is a need for.”

CICA and the town hammered out a memorandum of understanding in 2010 for CICA to use town-owned land on School House Road. Town Meeting voters approved the transfer of the property to CICA a year ago.

The town’s match for the project is the land, Howe said. The project also received $6,000 from the Maine Community Foundation’s Islands Challenge fund.

The duplex has been designed so that the two-story units are offset, providing more privacy inside and outside, according to Howe. They are also being built to strict state energy standards, making them easy to heat, Howe said.

The structure will be manufactured on the mainland by Oxford-based Keiser Homes, instead of stick-built, and then assembled on Chebeague. It is scheduled to be delivered in May, after foundation and septic system work is complete. The rise on the property where the duplex will sit has been cleared.

“Building stick-built housing on the islands is at a minimum 30 percent more (expensive) than on the mainland,” Howe said.

CICA’s mission is to ensure that Chebeague continues to have a year-round working community, Howe explained. To that end, the organization bought a house in 2007 – the year Chebeague seceded from Cumberland – on South Road, which it rents at an affordable level.

Explaining the smaller scale of the School House Road project, Howe said, “We have people who need affordable housing, but at any given time there are not going to be very many of them. … We only have 350 people in the winter time. The housing has to be for people who are year-round residents. We’re not providing affordable housing for summer people.”

The application process will run from March to April. Contact Howe at bethhowe@chebeague.net for more information on the project.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.