WATERVILLE — The Waterville Community Land Trust has purchased its first property: a two-story house in the South End that will be renovated and sold to an income-eligible family.

The land trust bought the house at 181 Water St. with funding given by anonymous donor through the Maine Community Foundation, according to land trust President Ashley Pullen.

The land trust’s goal is to help improve and preserve neighborhoods by making affordable housing available to people with low-to-moderate income. The idea is that increasing home ownership in the city will help stabilize neighborhoods, make them safer and provide homes for families and children.

“Basically, we’re targeting the working poor,” Pullen said. “We know that a lot of the employment opportunities in this area do not pay very highly. You have maybe a single parent working two jobs and supporting a family, and it makes it tough to save and make a payment.”

The land trust, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, plans to buy or acquire through donation more homes and sell them at affordable prices. If and when a homeowner decides to sell a home, the land trust retains ownership of the underlying land and a substantial share of any profit on the sale of the house.

“We’re shooting for, hopefully, seven to 10 homes completed, with families living in them, five years from now,” Pullen said. “We’re certainly continuing to look for projects. We’re not able to purchase more right now, but certainly, if anybody wants to donate to us, that would be great.”

The older two-story, two-bedroom home with one bath at the southern end of Water Street will be renovated and the land trust is planning to add another bathroom, she said. The house was built around 1900.

The property has an assessed value of $37,100, according to city records. Pullen said the land trust bought the house for $35,000 and anticipates completing $80,000 to $100,000 worth of renovations to modernize it and add the second bathroom.

The trust, run by an all-volunteer board of directors, receives program money through donations and fundraising. The group decided to focus first on the historic South End of the city, which once was a hub of activity for many Franco-Americans who moved there from Canada to work in the mills. Neighborhood revitalization efforts by the South End Neighborhood Association have been ongoing.

Neighborhood Association Chairwoman Jackie Dupont, who also is a city councilor representing Ward 7, in which the South End is located, said the purchase of the home is a great achievement for both the area and the city.

“The Waterville Community Land Trust is modeling the kind of investment we want the rest of the city to be part of when they think about projects in the South End, as well as what we hope other agencies think about when they look to investing in Waterville,” said Dupont, who also is a member of the land trust board.

Dupont said it’s been challenging at times “to get support for the kinds of proactive initiatives desired by the neighborhood, but this purchase tells others, ‘Good things are happening in the South End. Get in on the ground floor.’

“We have an invaluable partnership with experienced and passionate people like the Waterville Community Land Trust, and it’s only going to grow from there.”

Land Trust Vice President Nancy Williams helped found the organization; she’s a former executive director of the multimillion-dollar Lake George Land Conservancy in New York. Discussions started three years ago about developing a land trust in Waterville, with Williams and others such as City Planner Ann Beverage wanting to help preserve the historic nature of neighborhoods.

The home at 181 Water St. had been owned since 1958 by Hubert and Theresa M. Caron, who also is known as Theresa Cote, according to Williams. Caron’s daughter, Linda K. Cloutier, who has power of attorney for her mother, signed over the deed for the house.

“The home will remain perpetuity affordable with (the land trust) retaining an interest in the home to assure that after each resale, the home will remain affordable to another family,” Williams said. “We believe that by increasing home ownership in Waterville we will bring stability to neighborhoods, increase the potential for other new families to purchase homes near our properties, increase the city’s tax base and, a purpose most dear to all of the directors — provide permanent homes for families with children.”

Pullen said the home has an unfinished basement, which at one time served at a bait shop and has a side entrance.

The land trust initially planned to buy a house at 182 Water St., just across the street, but the 181 Water St. house became available and provided an opportunity sooner.

“We do still have an option on that property (182 Water St.) and hope to purchase that in the future,” Pullen said. The home at 181 Water St. “is an opportunity that we became aware of through Waterville’s being a small community and people knowing each other. It ended up being a good move, for both the homeowners’ daughter and also for us. It appealed to us because it was well built and it’s in good shape.”

Pullen said application forms for buying the house will be available soon on the land trust’s website, www.watervilleclt.org.

She said the payment on a home in the land trust probably would be less than a typical rental payment.

Land trust board members Scott McAdoo and Chris Moody, as well as other South End residents, were present for the deed signing.

McAdoo said the house is close to public amenities including a children’s playground, a boat ramp, a softball field and a future trail system planned along Water Street. Moody said the land trust is working on a renovation schedule, as well as a marketing plan to find the home’s first family.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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