Our group has been working to provide permanent affordable housing and a means for creating community since its inception in 1970. HOME is located in an area where housing and land, especially waterfront property, has been slowly moving towards gentrification over the past few generations. It is now becoming very difficult for working class families to find decent living conditions in this part of Maine, especially permanent housing. Land is becoming a commodity rather than a community asset, with many people owning summer homes and cottages which see use for only a few weeks out of the year. This pushes the lower class into rentals or other sub-par and difficult living situations. Many families are forced to dislocate from the State where they have lived for generation after generation.
Since HOME has begun working on this project, our group has been able to build over 50 houses, engaging volunteers from wealthy communities in order to educate them about the need for affordable housing and community. The construction of these houses has also traditionally provided employment to local tradesmen, laborers, and others of the working classes.
We have a standing construction crew of about 3 to 4 people who work together with groups of volunteers from local churches, schools, and any others interested. Many of the houses have also been built with the help of the prospective buyer, with the family receiving a form of sweat equity towards the purchase price.
We work together with Covenant Community Land Trust, which started as a project to protect access to land in Maine for low-income families and individuals. While HOME has traditionally sought out donation or purchase of land and constructed the housing, CCLT is responsible for the stewardship of this land. The Community Land Trust model is based around the idea that access to land is a right for everyone, including the poor. The organization is managed by a board of trustees which consists of at least one third members which are families who own homes within the land trust. The board is charged with protect access to land for the least among us, preventing land from entering the speculative market, encouraging a lifestyle of community involvement, and respecting our impact on the environment. CCLT was founded in 1978 with these goals in mind and has had a close relationship with HOME ever since.
St-Francis Community has also been involved in the project in the past, working both with HOME and CCLT in a similar manner. St-Francis Community has a strong history of acquiring and protecting land from entering the speculative market.
Over the last two years, HOME has been planning and building a house in the Millvale community. The home is in a location of a house in which a house had burned. Using the existing site, which had an intact well and septic system, HOME was able to build this modern dwelling.
The goal is that a low-income family will become homeowners in the very near future, providing a family with a base to grow.
The cost of building the home was mitigated by the use of volunteer labor along with donations of materials to support the project. As part of our mission to provide employment, HOME employs a small crew of workers in the construction field. Our workers come from various backgrounds and many have come to HOME through desperate situations. In 2016, HOME brought together this construction crew with groups of volunteers, many of whom are external to the community, to build the home. At this point the house is expected to be finished by summer 2017.
We need to concentrate on educating and engaging future generations on the issue of substandard housing.