Housing crisis

Blue Hill Peninsula is considering a new way to solve the housing crisis

The lack of housing for workers and families has prompted officials across the Blue Hill Peninsula to consider creating a regional housing authority.

A newly formed peninsula-wide housing task force has addressed the topic twice in as many months in its ongoing efforts to alleviate the housing crisis. The group plans to explore the form an interlocal agreement with the nine municipalities in the region could take next month.

Housing authorities normally manage rental housing complexes, provide housing assistance and administer housing voucher schemes. There are several others in Maine, but, if created, a peninsular authority would be one of the few to involve so many municipalities.

The idea of ​​a local authority was raised at the working group’s first meeting last month. The group initially banded together to seek ideas on how to find workforce housing for the Island Nursing Home, a skilled care facility in Deer Isle that closed last year, in part due to a lack of staff and accommodation for them.

But the housing discussion has extended to finding ways to keep the peninsula as an affordable option for the next generation.

Currently, there are few homes on the peninsula that are available and affordable for young families, officials said.

“You can’t find a place to rent,” Penobscot coach Phil Rapp said at the task force’s first meeting. “We have become a retirement community.

The creation of a regional housing authority would require the approval of municipal meetings of all cities wishing to participate.

The idea has gained traction as towns in Hancock County handle an increasing number of short-term rentals, which in some places have begun to swallow up the year-round housing stock.

The working group also supported the completion of a housing assessment to obtain data on the needs of the area.

“We have to do something,” said Stonington Select Board member Evelyn Duncan. “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 have also expressed interest, said Brooklin Select Board member and housing group organizer Bill Cohen.

Getting all cities on board could prove difficult and take months or even years, officials said.

But towns on the peninsula have worked together more often in recent years as the issues they tackle have become bigger than a single municipality – most of which has just a few full-time staff – could handle.

“It’s tough for one city, so maybe banding together could be the answer,” Duncan said.