Kennebunkport business owners Tanya and Jen in front of the land that will be their new home in November. Credit: Courtesy of Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust / Maine Public

Maine is in dire need of affordable housing, particularly in some of the state’s more affluent communities. One approach to meeting that demand is the community land trust, which lowers the costs of houses by leasing the land beneath it to the homeowners.

Kennebunkport is not known for its affordable housing. In fact, its an expensive place to live. But the town’s first affordable housing neighborhood is now under construction. The Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust is putting six modular homes on town land. The goal: 19 more over the next four years. The three-bedroom homes are priced between $220,000 and $300,000. Trust President Pat Briggs said the homes are affordable because the cost of the land is taken out of the total price and replaced with a low monthly lease.

“This concept of using leased land which is in the trust is what we’re using and we’re looking for land, if you donate it we can work with it,” said Pat Briggs, the president of Kennebunkport Heritage Housing Trust, or KHHT.

“Without the KHHT we were not going to be able to live here,” said Tanya Arlberg, who owns a shop in Kennebunkport with her partner, Jen. The pandemic forced them to close their shop, cutting their income 75 percent. They couldn’t get a mortgage. But she said the trust helped them get financing through Maine Housing’s First Home Loan Program. Without the trust, Arlberg said, they would have to live far away from the town they want to call home.

“We wouldn’t get to know our neighbors, be a part of the community. We couldn’t afford to without this. It’s amazing considering what our future is like, the possibilities now,” Arlberg said.

Tanya and Jen will move into their new home in November. Nonprofit Community Land Trusts are also active in Portland, Waterville, Hancock County and Mount Desert Island. Together, they provide more than 100 homes for working Mainers who otherwise could not afford to live there.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.