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Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part Two

This is Part Two of a 3-part special report
Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 5:30 PM EST
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Maine (WABI) - You’ve heard of the term food insecurity.

Tonight, we’re going to discuss home insecurity.

For many Mainers, a place to call home means more than just a roof over their head.

Subsidized...low-cost...public sector...affordable housing comes in all different names, but when it gets right down to it- each and every one of us want the same thing.

A place to call our own.

Here’s Joy Hollowell with part Two of her special report on coming together to solve Maine’s Housing Crisis.

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Sound of phone ringing

“The TV people are here. I’ll call you later.”

March 18th will mark one year since Jane Schroeder became the first resident of Philbrick Commons in Rockland.

“Look at how light it is. It’s just gorgeous,” Schroeder says, proudly showing off her place.

The bungalows were built by Midcoast Habitat for Humanity to address an acute need in the community for a different kind of affordable housing.

“I had applications at 10 different places for what are they called, subsidized housing for senior citizens,” explains Schroeder. “And, they were all telling me, oh, it’s going to be like two or three years. And I said, I don’t have two or three years,” she says, chuckling.

“Giving someone that foundation, it’s a basic human need to have a home,” says Tia Anderson, Executive Director of Midcoast Habitat for Humanity.

But one size doesn’t fit all.

“I really wanted to be in the midst of real life which is all ages, and guess what?” says Schroeder, “that’s what we got here.”

Jean Levensaler lives a few doors down from Jane

“It was so worth it,” says Levensaler when asked about her choice to participate in this program. “It was so worth it at this late point in my life to own a home.”

Levensaler admits she didn’t think buying a house was ever an option.

“No, never,” she says, shaking her head. “tt makes you want to work for them (Habitat for Humanity). Makes you want to volunteer. And continue to volunteer even after you’re done putting the sweat equity into your house.”

Work is now being done on six additional homes at Philbrick Commons, both one and two bedroom. There will also be a common green space with gardens and a gazebo.

“We want it to be aesthetically pleasing, we want it to feel like a neighborhood and a community where folks can engage,” says Anderson. “If we can continue to come together and really test the models and take some leaps of faith and do stuff differently, we can really have a greater impact,”

That’s why Midcoast Habitat for Humanity is now partnering with the Knox County Homeless Coalition on a brand new venture- building a housing development in Rockland. The 10-acre site on Talbot Avenue is within walking distance of town. It will eventually be home to six small cottages, two family sized duplexes, and 3 habitat homes.

“Maine State Housing provided initial funding to purchase the Talbot Avenue property,” explains Primm.

“The cottages will be what we call equity builders,” adds Anderson. “They’ll be paying a monthly rent, and then some of that will be held back.”

When residents decide to move on, that money will be given back to them for down payments on a home or other property.

“Just an out of the box approach to addressing some of the need we’re seeing now that is so desperate,” says Anderson.

Much like Philbrick Commons, the community here will be diverse including single tenants, families, veterans, and retirees. Habitat volunteers will build everything and oversee continuing maintenance. KCHC will own the deeds to the cottages and duplexes and provide onsite support services.

“I think we all believe that the real solution to affordable housing availability in the whole state is only going to be successful if it’s mission based,” says Primm. “Without shelter, there’s no way people can make any progress.”

“Not only building homes but building community and being able to maintain affordability for the long haul,” adds Anderson.”

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Inmates in the Maine State Prison’s construction program built sheds and pre-framed walls for the Philbrick Commons project. They will also build panels for the Talbot Avenue development.

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Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part One

Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part Three

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