A new Affordable Housing Working Group will oversee a study of Harpswell’s needs in the area and what options might exist to address those needs.
The Harpswell Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on June 9 to create the working group. The group will have five members. Kevin Johnson, chair of the select board, will also chair the working group, which will work with an outside consultant on the study.
The creation of the working group follows the allocation of $25,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds toward an analysis of affordable housing options. Voters approved the allocation in March.
Town Planner Mark Eyerman and Town Administrator Kristi Eiane put together the mission statement for the working group.
“The primary mission of the Affordable Housing Working Group is to develop recommendations to be considered at the 2024 Town Meeting for what the Town and the larger Harpswell community can do to explore the housing needs of residents and ways to meet those needs,” the mission statement reads.
Eyerman explained that state rules require that a town’s comprehensive plan address affordable housing. Because of this, the working group should cooperate closely with the town’s Comprehensive Plan Task Force. But Eyerman said a separate group is necessary to specifically address affordable housing.
“There was some discussion about, ‘Well, could we fold this under the comprehensive plan?'” Eyerman said. “But I really think the people who are really experts in (affordable housing) are a separate group of people and I think we would be better served by doing it separately.”
The working group will include a member of the select board as its chair, one member each from the Comprehensive Plan Task Force and the Planning Board, a representative of the real estate and development community, and a member of the public interested in affordable housing.
Selectman Jane Covey said she would like the member of the public to be someone with firsthand knowledge of Harpswell’s housing challenges.
“My view is that we have a lot of people in town who are struggling to find affordable housing,” Covey said. “We would be well served if any of the people who have recently bought or who are looking to buy, with firsthand knowledge of the situation, are recruited for that position.”
The select board will appoint the members of the working group at its next meeting.