ROCKLAND — MidCoast Regional Housing Trust, Inc. (MCRHT) announced its plans to develop housing for workforce families and individuals in Rockland. MCRHT is a non-profit corporation planning to concentrate initially on multifamily rental properties for low- and middle-income households. It explained its aims at the City Council’s monthly meeting on Nov. 7.

“Housing costs are hollowing out our community,” said MCRHT President Jonathan Goss. “From 2017 to 2020, the cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Rockland jumped from $994 a month to $1,520. This year, it reached $1,800. The median home price in Rockland is $285,000; in Knox County, it’s $407,500 — up 14 percent from a year ago. Working households — including teachers, health care workers, plumbers, and electricians — simply can’t afford to live here.”

In most cases, these households are ineligible for assistance from state or federal agencies and other non-profit organizations. They struggle to rent or buy a home in Rockland or anywhere in Knox County.

The lack of adequate housing has become a serious obstacle to the region’s economy. Over the next five years, Rockland employers will need to hire around 200 new workers just to replace retirees. But they face stiff headwinds. Major employers already report that as many as 25 percent of qualified candidates turn down job offers because they can’t find an adequate place to live. The recent search for a new police chief provides one high-visibility example.

“For Rockland and the Midcoast,” Goss noted, “the lack of housing that working people can afford points to a no-growth economic future.”

Goss praised Habitat for Humanity, the Knox County Homeless Coalition and other organizations that serve low-income families. “KCHC does a terrific job with households that need social services, and Habitat is a life-changer for homeowners who need financial assistance. We plan to focus on a different part of the housing market: people in the ‘missing middle’ who need an affordable home on an average income.”

MCRHT will use tax credits, charitable donations and other resources to construct new housing or convert existing buildings. It hopes to begin its first project in 2023. Successful housing trusts already operate in Kennebunkport, Freeport, North Haven, Deer Isle, Mt. Desert Island, Orland and other New England coastal towns. For more information about MCHRT, visit mcrht.org.