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News Feature

The Island
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, September 6, 2018
Survey aims to identify workforce housing needs
Public participation is encouraged

by Faith DeAmbrose

For the last few years employers on the island and across the greater Blue Hill peninsula have cited a lack of employees to fill available jobs ranging from the service industry to the trades. Some businesses have reduced their hours while others have given up their search. For one island-based group working on issues of affordable workforce housing, it is this resource, they say, that brings employers one step closer to attracting more workers.

The idea of workforce housing was studied more than a decade ago in Deer Isle, and this year with a renewed sense of purpose, a small group of residents is looking to bring the topic in front of the community again.

I have talked to many employers “and they all basically say ‘yes, it is a problem,’” said Mike Wood of the group Island Workforce Housing. “But, at this point, I don’t—and they don’t—have any solutions.”

Island Workforce Housing, whose members include Wood, Dick Paget, Henry Treverow, Jim Fisher, Roger Bergen and Stuart Kestenbaum, have been meeting over the past few months to tackle the housing problem. The group recently launched two surveys, one for workers and the other for employers aimed at gathering data about the needs and resources. Both can be found at islandworkforcehousing.org.

Wood said that in addition to collecting data via the survey, he has also been talking to islanders about year-round housing and understands that for many people renting only in the summer and/or short-term winter rentals makes more economic sense. “I can’t fault them for it,” he said.

However, a lack of year-round housing affects more than just employment, he added, noting that the fire department also needs volunteers and the school needs students to attend, both of which require housing on the island.

The surveys will be available into October, said Wood, and the group welcomes additional help or ideas. People interested in working on this island-wide challenge are encouraged to email Wood at mwood@dishs.org.