Island life may be more feasible for young families and fishermen than before thanks to new housing opportunities underway on Isle au Haut.

The Isle au Haut Community Development Corporation (ICDC) plans to build two affordable housing units with a $350,000 Maine State Housing Authority grant in an effort to attract families with children, more fishermen and business owners to the island. Exterior construction will begin off-island and pieces of the houses will be barged out in August, after which roofing and interior work will be completed.

The town of Isle au Haut, located six miles off Stonington in Penobscot Bay, is 12.7 square miles and has about 40 year-round residents. The island is home to part of Acadia National Park, a one-room schoolhouse, post office, general store, church, town hall and a number of independent businesses.

The new rentals are designed “to meet challenges of aesthetic living, affordability, and ease of island construction, while targeting net-zero energy consumption and minimal carbon footprint,” according to the ICDC website.

Building affordable homes is essential to the island’s sustainability, according to ICDC chairperson Gerardine Wurzburg. “The dilemma on the island now is that there’s so little housing stock for people to buy that’s affordable that you need to create housing stock so people can at least get on the island and establish their lives,” she said.

The Village House will be a two-bedroom home located in town across from the one-room K-8 schoolhouse. The Blueberry Hill home will contain three bedrooms and will be built on one of five acres of land donated by the town. More houses will be constructed on the hill in the future, Wurzburg said. The Village House will rent for about $600 a month, while Blueberry Hill will cost around $750. Utilities are not included.

Income limit for tenants is $69,975, according to Wurzburg. “This is not low-income housing,” she said. “It’s affordable housing.” She explained that the current rental rates were calculated by Maine State Housing and the Genesis Community Loan Fund, which “run these equations based on what people are paying at these income levels.”

While anyone may apply for ICDC affordable housing, the community is hoping to attract certain types of people with the new units: lobstermen, families with young children, home business owners and people who can work remotely.

There are about 12 to 15 fishermen in the community, compared to around 300 fishing from nearby Stonington, according to island lobsterman Bill Clark. Isle au Haut is in Zone C, the only open fishing zone in the state where anyone with a Maine lobster license can transfer. The town welcomes and needs new boats in the harbor, an attitude that differs from many fishing communities.

“The hard part of this is finding people who are interested in coming out, but then finding people who have the values and the chemistry, who will fit in and have the work ethic,” Wurzburg said.

“We don’t want someone who’s coming here to escape,” she continued. “We want someone who wants to earn a living and contribute to the community, to bring something to the table.”

One thing applicants are encouraged to bring to the island are small children. There are currently only four students, ages 9 to 12, in the island school, with no young children coming up, according to Wurzburg. She said it is important for the island to attract families with young children to keep the small school—one of the engines of an island community—in session.

Applicants may also be drawn to the island because of opportunities that weren’t available just a few years ago. “We now have DSL [high-speed Internet], which is good for someone to live and work remotely,” Wurzburg said. “We couldn’t attract those people 20 years ago.”

Wurzburg said there have been many queries about affordable housing and ICDC is still accepting  applicants. A committee will begin to review applications later this year and into 2013. There have been many efforts to recruit tenants. “We  just have to throw out our net and dig as wide as we can and sort through it,” she said.

The application includes questions ranging from the skills one could utilize on the island to predictions on how one would “personally thrive in a small, isolated community.”

“It takes a certain type of person” to live on Isle au Haut, said Brenda Clark, who moved with her husband, Bill, from Lincolnville 14 years ago.

“Very private people won’t make it out here, because there is nothing that goes on on this island that you don’t know about,” Bill Clark said. “If you’re the type that wants to be a hermit and hide and nobody knows what you’re doing, this isn’t the place to be. Your front door is open pretty much all the time.”

Many community members emphasized the town’s need for people who don’t “romanticize” living on a small island off the coast of Maine. “I think what happens is people fantasize the island, they move out, it doesn’t meet their fantasy, they can’t stand it and then they just go running from it,” said Steve Shaffer, who runs Black Dinah Chocolatiers on the island with his wife, Kate. “You can see it when people say, ‘Oh, I would love to live out here, I think it would be so great.’ It’s like, all right, let’s give you the reality of it.”

“You can’t come out here and have an idea of how your life will be,” he said. “You have to come out and be like, I’m going to see how my life develops and let the island shape it, because it does.”

Affordable housing applications are available to all and can be downloaded at