KENNEBUNKPORT — The Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust is looking to build at least 25 affordable homes for potential year-round residents by 2025.

Board members Sue Ellen Stavrand and Jim Fitzgerald said that while the trust is still awaiting its final approval to become a nonprofit, they are open to taking public donations, whether it comes in the form of money, land or talent.

Their ultimate goal is to create more homes for younger families who will live and volunteer in Kennebunkport, Stavrand said.

Currently, 56.2 percent of residents in Kennebunkport are year-round, she said, and the number is shrinking. With summertime residency increasing, so is the cost of housing.

“The current non-waterfront median home sale is $482,500, putting Kennebunkport out of financial reach for young families looking to move back home and seniors looking to downsize,” she said in an email.

With fewer younger people in the area during the winter, safety for residents becomes a concern. Fitzgerald and Stavrand used firefighters as an example.

“The average age of the volunteer fire department is 55,” Stavrand said. “Thirty-five percent are over 60. As people age, they have more physical limitations, so what a younger firefighter might be able to do, an older firefighter will be more restricted.”

The board has doubled in size since the fall of 2018, she said, and now has nine members who are dedicated to creating affordable housing in Kennebunkport.

The homes the trust wants to build have high-quality standards and will be guaranteed affordable for younger families, Fitzgerald said.

“How (we’ll) keep it affordable is by Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust owning the land and leasing it out,” he said. “You can’t turn around and flip it, can’t turn it into an Airbnb. You have to meet specific income requirements.”

Stavrand and Fitzgerald added that the requirements for purchasing the house will not prevent the homeowners from increasing their income or renovating the home.

“It doesn’t prevent you from moving up,” Stavrand said. “If you get raises and promotions, good for you. You are paying a mortgage and paying a small percentage each month of leasing the land. We want to support you. We want to make sure that you are successful.”

She and Fitzgerald added that the homeowners must remain year-round Kennebunkport residents. They do not have to work in Kennebunkport, but the hope is that they will jump in and volunteer in the community.

Because the trust will own the land, it will prevent the value from skyrocketing.

“We can guarantee that it’s going to stay affordable forever,” Fitzgerald said. “We want the cost of living to be normalized and not outrageous.”

Trust members hope to break ground and put up a couple of homes by 2020, Stavrand said, but finding land that’s fit for homes could be difficult.

“Land in Kennebunkport can be challenging because it is rocky; it has a lot of water,” she said. “So finding a little pocket for homes is difficult.”

Despite the challenge, the town already has deeded the trust a bit of land, Fitzgerald said.

“We have just been deeded a very nice parcel of land,” he said. “They call it the skating rink parcel, which is up by the police station. There’s enough room there for five homes. That has been deeded over for the trust to use. That really does help lower the price of homes.”

“It had been a tax-acquired land that had been sitting on the books for quite some time,” Stavrand said, “and so up until the point where it has been passed over to us, it has produced no income for the town. When our homeowners come in, they’ll be paying taxes back to the town.”

Fitzgerald said that these new homes will bring in more than just new taxpayers.

“It’s a win-win,” he said. “We get some nice families with young children for the schools. Maybe some firefighters, EMS personnel, schoolteachers, even some town employees. I don’t think any town employees actually live in Kennebunkport.”

An increase in full-time residency will bring in more local stores for those homeowners, Stavrand said.

“Right now, when you go through Dock Square, those stores are geared towards summer seasonal residents,” she said. “You’re not seeing the ‘I need to buy diapers. I need new clothes for little Johnny going to school.’ You’re going out of town. So the more people who come in of all ages and live in town, they’re going to be better-served by the people looking to open businesses.”

The trust wants to help remodel Kennebunkport schools, too, Fitzgerald said.

“If you were in a class with 10 students, you might be with those 10 students all the way through till middle school,” he said. “You have no connection to any other kids in the community. It’s really imperative that we change that model. We’re trying to bring new families in with kids.”

As a small town, Kennebunkport has a lot of potential for families, Stavrand and Fitzgerald said.

“There is a very strong sense of community,” Stavrand said. “I’ve been a full-time resident for about a year now, and I’m personally discovering the warmth, the care.”

Fitzgerald added, “There’s no traffic lights, no gas stations. All the shops are mom-and-pop stores. It’s almost a throwback to another time.”

— Catherine Bart 207-780-9029

at [email protected]

CAPTION 2: The Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust, dedicated to gaining full-time Kennebunkport residents, has some ideas for the houses they are looking to build. Above, an example of one type of home the trust is interested in building. COURTESY PHOTO/Sue Ellen Stavrand

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