Affordable housing for Down East farmworkers available soon

Posted May 02, 2011, at 1:57 p.m.

MILBRIDGE, Maine — Rental applications are now available for Hand in Hand Apartments, the first complex of its kind in the country directed toward families who work in the agricultural and aquacultural sectors.

Construction will be finished in mid-June and leases will begin July 1, according to Mano en Mano Director Ian Yaffe.

Hand in Hand Apartments will house six families in three three-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments on Wyman Road.

“There is a genuine sense of excitement among everyone who has worked tirelessly to bring this project from a far-reaching proposal to a tangible building,” Yaffe said Monday. “These farmworker families play a crucial role in sustaining our local economy, enriching our community, and fostering our quality of place. We are tremendously grateful to everyone who has helped make this dream a reality and are looking forward to turning over the keys to these apartments to six families on July 1.”

The $1.3 million project has green features to reduce maintenance and replacement costs, including Energy Star fixtures, appliances and windows, a highly efficient boiler, radiant floor heat, extra insulation and high-performing materials.

Mano en Mano/Hand in Hand is a nonprofit organization based in Milbridge with a mission to “build a stronger and more inclusive Downeast Maine by working with diverse populations to provide affordable housing and educational opportunities, remove barriers to health and social services, and advocate for social justice.”

Yaffe said that offering affordable housing options to local families who choose to make some of their annual income by working on family farms, a lobster boat, on the blueberry barrens, or in the clam flats — among other farm labor sources — will help keep these workers in the area to support the resource-based economy.

Fickett Property Management of Cherryfield will manage the property. “They have a long track record of successful and dedicated management of public and private housing sites,” Yaffe said.

While this property is exempt from local taxation, Mano en Mano will make an equivalent payment in lieu of taxes to the town of Milbridge each year as budgetary conditions allow, Yaffe said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house will be held at the property in mid-June.

Initial rental applications are due Friday, May 27, and can be obtained from Fickett Property Management in Cherryfield or by calling 546-7800. After this date, applications will still be accepted, but there may be a waiting list which will have both need- and date-based priorities in accordance with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.

Yaffe said key partners in this project are E.W. Littlefield, Inc. of Hartland (general contractor) and WBRC Architects/Engineers of Bangor (architect/engineer). Major funding is through a $1,005,722 USDA Rural Development Farm Labor Housing Grant and a $176,778 Farm Labor Housing Loan, as well as a $220,000 loan from Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Wiscasset.

Hand in Hand Apartments will be open to permanent residents or U.S. citizens who earn a substantial portion of their annual income from agriculture or aquaculture work and meet adjusted family income requirements.

More information, updates, and time-lapse images of the construction progress, are posted at www.manomaine.org.

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