‘the city is at one of those tipping points’

Rockland forms ad hoc committee to address housing shortage

Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:00pm

ROCKLAND – A man froze to death in a shipping container in Rockland. Some large companies avoid the area, and nurses and teachers revoke their contracts and move away. This, because of what has been described as zero vacancy in local housing rentals.

Habitat for Humanity and the homeless advocates in Rockport have come forward with reports of hundreds of people currently on waiting lists for shelter.

These anecdotes, repeated by Mayor Valli Geiger during the Monday, Dec. 11 city council meeting, provided the basis of why councilors voted to create an ad hoc housing committee.

“It feels like the city is at one of those tipping points where our future is in danger if there is no place for millennials, who wish to move here, to live,” Geiger said. “If there is no place for new employees to live.”

Starting in January, three subcommittees within a large task force will study and address three different topics related to the housing shortage.

One subcommittee will review the feasibility of converting the former McLain School property into residential housing.

The second will review the utilization of upper stories of buildings in the downtown district.

And the third will study and recommend reasonable regulations for establishment of tiny houses.

As an amendment, Geiger also added the topic of infill (allowing more habitable structures to existing properties) to the tiny house conversations since both are intertwined where zoning is concerned.

According to Geiger, each subcommittee will include a council member. She also stated a desire for a city employee to join each group, as well as local professionals with expertise in related fields.

All five council members expressed enthusiasm for the new task force. However, Councilor Ed Glaser stated concern about limiting discussion of the McLain School property to just housing.

“I hope that this subcommittee will look at other potential uses that would benefit the city at least as much as housing,” he said. “Who knows exactly what it will be. It may well be that housing is the best use.”

Glaser then listed other options including a magnet school.

Otherwise, Glaser said, “I think this is wonderful. I think this is exactly what we need to be doing.”


Reach Sarah Thompson at news@penbaypilot.com