For residents on Chebeague Island who rent, finding year-round housing is a challenge.

As is the case on islands in many coastal communities, summer homes dominate the rental market

“Anybody can get a place to live for nine or ten months, and then they get kicked out,” said John Wilson, a member of the affordable housing subcommittee of the Chebeague Island Community Association (CICA). “It makes it tougher for people who are not in a position to buy a house who want to be on the island.”

To help provide year-round rental housing, the Chebeague Island Community Association is applying for money from the new, $2 million island affordable housing program announced in June (see “State grants $2 million for island housing,” The Working Waterfront, June issue).

CICA has proposed building a new home with two rental unitsĀ  on a four-acre piece of land on School House Road. The project is estimated to cost about $310,000, although that figure is still being refined, Wilson said.

Money for island housing is part of a $30 million green affordable housing bond signed by Gov. John Baldacci in June 2009. The state housing authority, Maine Housing, is running the program; funds are available starting July 1. Homes built through the program must be used as rental units for 15 years.

If approved, projects can receive 80 percent of the project cost from the island housing program. The applicant has to provide 20 percent of project costs, but those can include the value of donated land, professional services or construction equipment, according to a press release from Maine Housing.

The project took a step forward on June 5 when the Chebeague Island Town Meeting approved using the four-acre parcel for affordable housing. The vote was 46 in favor and 17 opposed.

On June 23, CICA will talk with the Board of Selectmen about who will own the land and who will apply for the funds. One concern raised at Town Meeting was the extent of the town’s responsibility for the project, if it retains ownership of the land or applies for the funds. “What I am hearing from people is that they are concerned about the town having to manage it,” said Selectmen Mark Dyer. “And if something goes wrong who is liable, and who has to pay for those problems and management.”

CICA does not want the town to have to deal with those issues. “The goal is for CICA to take all of the responsibility, both financially and otherwise” for the project, Wilson said.

If the application to Maine Housing is approved, there needs to be a special Town Meeting to vote on the specifics of the proposed housing.

Another question raised at Town Meeting was why isn’t CICA looking to renovate existing homes, according to Wilson. CICA has purchased one existing home, on South Road, which it is renting. And the affordable housing subcommittee looked at about ten different homes over the past two years. But the buildings were not suitable. “They just didn’t meet our needs,” Wilson said.

Also, in order to obtain an existing home, CICA would have difficulty meeting the 20 percent match requirement. For the School House Road project, the donated value of the land will be a major part of that match. “The idea of renovating was much more expensive,” said Wilson.

Another concern raised at Town Meeting was that this project would change the way residents established themselves on the island. In the past, someone would buy land and build a house, sometimes over a period of years, while living on the lot. “I am sensitive to that-that is a great ethic,” Wilson said. But the zoning code no longer allows people to live on site while building. “The real issue is the availability of land,” Wilson said, noting that it costs between $25,000 and $60,000 to buy an acre-an-a-half parcel (the minimum lot size) on the island.

Mark Dyer said he is in favor of the project, as long as the town has no management role. “I think the island should be looking at pursuing some sort of opportunity for people who can’t build their own house, such as I was able to,” he said.

His brother, Wayne Dyer, owned the land and sold Mark two-and-a-half acres at the price he originally paid. His brother also gave Mark a good price on a septic system, and the two houses share a well. “I didn’t get it all for free, but I certainly didn’t pay market rate,” Mark Dyer said. He built his home between 1992 and 1994.

The selectmen said he feels fortunate. As a contractor who works on the island he could build his home and take time off from his business to do so.

“I know I could not build [my house] now for what I built it for in 1992,” he said. Mark and his wife, and their two teenage daughters live in the home.

Both Wilson and Mark Dyer said that real estate and other costs have dramatically increased in the past decade, making it extremely difficult for new islanders to find a place to live.

“It’s the economic pressure-I just think that in the last 15 or 20 years the cost of doing anything over here has significantly increased,” Mark Dyer said.