ISLESBORO — In July, the Select Board created a Housing Committee to address the island’s need for medium-priced homes for health care workers teachers, tradespeople and other essential workers.

Select Board member Lauren Bruce, who chairs the committee, told The Republican Journal Jan. 14 she started looking into the housing situation after being approached by a resident. She gathered a working group, several of whose members are now on the Housing Committee. Members include Rick Rogers, director of Islesboro Affordable Property; John Kauer, who has set up a nonprofit to build mid-range sustainable housing; Tom Tutor, a member of the Islesboro Economic Sustainability Corp.’s board; Dave Dyer of the island’s School Committee; Michael Hutcherson of the Islesboro Community Fund; resident Mike Nelson; and ex officio member Melissa Burns, Select Board liaison for the committee.

In late November 2021, the committee sent out a survey via the town email list to find out more about the housing need and the demographic characteristics of people needing housing on the island. The survey was also posted on the town’s Facebook page.

Bruce said 29 responses were received by the deadline of Dec. 6, 2021. Of those, 16, or 55%, live on the island and are looking for housing. Many of them currently rent housing that will be let to vacationers during the summer, she said, and will have to find somewhere else to live. Some of the respondents would qualify for so-called affordable housing with income-eligibility criteria, she said.

Most of those who responded to the survey — 15, or 52% — want a year-round house, while four, or 21%, would like an apartment. There were 19 respondents, or 66%, whose income was below $70,000 a year, Bruce said.

Bruce said she and other committee members feel frustrated because they see the immediate need for more housing within the reach of teachers, health care workers, laborers and others who provide needed services, but solving the problem takes time. Time to apply for and receive grants, time to plan, approve and build dwellings. And on top of that, buildable land on Islesboro is scarce. And in the meantime, some people are finding themselves forced to leave the community for lack of an affordable place to live. “There is no easy solution here,” she said.

The committee’s first priority, she said, is making available housing for workers already living and working on the island, while its second priority is those who work on the island and live elsewhere, but who would live on Islesboro if they could.

They would also like to have overnight lodging for workers on the island to have a place to stay during the week, and return to their off-island home for the weekend, she said.

In spite of the frustrations, Bruce said the committee members are determined to continue pursuing solutions to the problems affecting housing on the island. They would like to find an existing cottage to convert, but so far have not found anything suitable.

One ray of hope is prefabricated housing. She said an islander recently built a house that was shipped via truck and “unfolded” on the site.

Because solving the housing problem affects the lives of everyone in the community who depends on teachers and nurses and grocery store workers, etc., the viability of the community is at stake, Bruce said.

“The need is urgent. It’s now.”