A lack of housing for workers and families has prompted officials from across the Blue Hill Peninsula to consider creating a regional housing authority.
A newly formed peninsula-wide housing task force has broached the subject twice in as many months in its ongoing efforts to ease the housing crunch. The group plans to look further into what form an interlocal agreement could take with the area’s nine towns next month.
Housing authorities normally run rental housing complexes, provide rental assistance and administer housing voucher programs. There are several others in Maine, but, if created, a peninsula authority would be one of the only to involve such a large number of municipalities.
The idea for a local authority was raised at the task force’s first meeting last month. The group initially banded together to seek out ideas on how to find workforce housing for the Island Nursing Home, a skilled care facility in Deer Isle that closed last year, partially due to a lack of staff and places for them to live.
But the housing discussion has extended to looking for ways to keep the peninsula as an affordable option for the next generation.
Right now, there are few homes on the peninsula that are available and at a price point for young families to live in, officials said.
“You can’t find a place to rent,” Penobscot Selectman Phil Rapp said at the task force’s first meeting. “We’ve become a retirement community.”
Creating a regional housing authority would need town meeting approvals from all towns willing to participate.
The idea has gained support as towns across Hancock County deal with a growing number of short-term rentals that have, in some places, started to gobble up the year-round housing stock.
The task force also supported getting a housing assessment done to get data behind the area’s needs.
“We’ve got to do something,” said Evelyn Duncan, a Stonington Select Board member. “Some form of regional cooperation is needed.”
Officials from Brooklin, Sedgwick, Brooksville, Stonington, Penobscot, Brooksville and Castine attended the regional meetings. Blue Hill and Surry also have expressed interest, said Bill Cohen, a Brooklin Select Board member and the housing group organizer.
Getting every town in agreement could prove difficult and take months if not years, officials said.
But the peninsula towns have been working together more often in recent years, as the issues they are tackling have become larger than any single municipality — most of which have only a few full-time employees — could handle.
“It’s hard for just one town so maybe joining together might be the answer,” Duncan said.