FREEPORT — Every Saturday from now through May, you’ll find Hana Tallan hammering nails or spreading spackle in what will be her new home on South Street.

Tallan is one of 11 future homeowners who will benefit from the town’s growing partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland. She has purchased one of three Habitat houses under construction on former town-owned land on South Street, and the Town Council recently agreed to provide additional land to build four duplexes off West Street.

A Somali immigrant and divorced mom who works as an education technician in Portland schools, Tallan said she’s excited and grateful for the opportunity to build a home for her five children and buy a piece of the American dream.

“I feel empowered,” said Tallan, 42, who rents in Biddeford. “Every day that I work on my house, I’m learning new things. I know what my house is made of. I brag about it to my coworkers. I’m putting in flooring. I’m building walls. It will be a beautiful home.”

Last month, the Town Council approved the fourth town-sponsored Habitat project in Freeport since 2003. The eight-unit project — the largest ever developed by the Greater Portland group — reflects the town’s commitment to increase affordable housing stock as recommended in its comprehensive plan and promoted by Town Planner Donna Larson.

“The council always has a concern with providing workforce housing because there’s not a lot of it,” said Town Manager Dale Olmstead.


The median sale price for homes in Freeport is about $290,000 — about $100,000 higher than the price that’s considered affordable for a family with a median annual income of about $94,000, according to the Maine State Planning Office.

The Habitat houses will sell for $135,000 to $190,000, depending on family income. Buyers will receive financing and training through the Maine State Housing Authority’s first-time homebuyers’ program.

If homeowners decide to sell one of the Habitat houses, which appraise for $220,000 to $230,000, a majority of the profit will go back to Habitat to finance construction of additional homes, said Stephen Bolton, executive director of Habitat of Greater Portland.

Bolton said several cities and towns have helped his agency develop more than 50 single-family homes since 1985. But few have made the commitment as strongly as Freeport, in part because town leaders realize that workers in local retail outlets are traveling from as far away as Portland, Lewiston and Augusta because they can’t afford to live in town.

“Many towns include affordable housing as a goal in their comprehensive plans,” Bolton said. “Freeport is actually acting on it. They’re linking it to economic development and stabilizing their workforce.”

In 2003, the town and the Freeport Housing Trust provided land on Grant Road, where Habitat built two of its typical ranch houses, Bolton said. One of the houses was the first woman-built Habitat project in Greater Portland, meaning that 75 percent of the work was done by women.


In 2008, the town provided a parcel at 12 West St., where L.L.Bean put a historic house that was removed from Cross Street to make way for a parking lot. Habitat renovated and sold the house and paid the town $2,500 to cover outstanding taxes on the West Street property.

In 2009, the council agreed to sell Habitat one acre of town-owned land at 38 South Street, which was acquired because the former owner failed to pay property taxes. Construction of three, three-bedroom houses started last summer and should be done by June, Bolton said.

One of the three houses has been sold — to Tallan — and another in under contract. When the project is completed, Habitat will pay the town $104,000 to cover back taxes on the three lots.

Under the plan that the council approved Dec. 20, Habitat will build four duplexes on three acres of land off West Street that also acquired because of unpaid property taxes. When the duplexes are sold, Habitat will pay the town $40,000 to cover the taxes.

In addition, Habitat and town officials are seeking a federal Community Development Block Grant to pay for road and utility work for the duplexes. If all goes well, construction should start by spring 2013 and help the Greater Portland agency increase its annual output, Bolton said.

Until now, the agency’s largest projects included four homes.


It completes three homes per year in Cumberland County, largely because it’s dependent on fundraising and volunteer labor.

“We recognized some time ago that if we’re going to build one house here and one house there, we’re really not going to fix the problem,” Bolton said.

All of the Habitat homes being built near the village center reflect the architecture of several historically significant houses on Depot Street.

The so-called Mallet houses are classic two-story, wood-frame homes that were built at the turn of the 20th century by Freeport businessman E.B. Mallet for his employees. Habitat’s modern version features bay windows, clapboard siding and shingled gables.

Tallan appreciates the architecture of her house and its connection to Freeport’s history. She also appreciates the work of volunteers who are helping her build it, regardless of foul weather and aching muscles. She looks forward to the day when she can help others build their Habitat houses.

“That is my dream,” Tallan said. “I’m going to be building a lot of houses.”

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