Norway Equitable Housing Cooperative
Entering Phase Two
In May 2023, we completed Phase One of our project when we officially purchased 33 and 35 Whitman Street in Norway as the future home of Norway Equitable Housing Cooperative (NEHC). What’s next for the co-op? The challenges of the existing site dictate that several things must happen before we’re eligible for state funding for construction.
Phase Two: Asbestos abatement and demolition of existing structures. As metal roofing peels off the barn and threatens to blow onto neighboring properties, we’re prioritizing raising funds to remove the asbestos siding, followed by demolishing the buildings and carting them to Juniper Ridge Landfill. So far we estimate that we will need upwards of $50,000 to complete this phase, depending on possible pro bono work to help raze the structures. DONATE HERE to support Phase Two!
Phase Three: Once the buildings are removed, we’ll be eligible to apply for pre-development funding. These funds will go toward solidifying our architectural and engineering plans to be “shovel ready” to apply for Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program (RARHP) funding from the state of Maine.
Phase Four: Apply for RARHP funding to build the project.
Phase Five: Construction!
Phase Six: Living cooperatively and affordably!
A team of CEBE staff, board members, and potential resident/owners have been developing the project plans for NEHC since July 2021 with technical assistance from many sources, including those from whom we will seek pre-development funding. We have a project team of local architects, engineers, and builders that are eager to finish designs and build the project.
As mentioned, our major roadblock at present are the two derelict houses and an assortment of small outbuildings that must be removed before our project can be considered for essential pre-development funding. This funding is critical to engage the project team in the steps necessary to complete our application to Maine Housing, which we anticipate happening late 2023 or early 2024. Further complicating the issue is the assessment showing that both buildings have asbestos siding, and one bathroom has linoleum which contains asbestos. These materials must be removed by professionals before demolition can be completed. We are currently raising funds to cover that cost. DONATE HERE!
Affordable, safe, energy efficient housing is a critical need in our community. We welcome your support of our ongoing effort to add eight to twelve new affordable, resident-owned, net zero housing units to our historic downtown, in support of workers and area businesses.
More on NEHC: A small group of local renters and members of CEBE have been meeting regularly around a shared need and vision for equitable, energy efficient, inspired housing in our town to address needs that current rental housing and federally- and state-subsidized affordable housing do not.
As our project has developed, we’ve had the opportunity to advocate on the state level for resident-led housing cooperatives, we’ve been included in panels and workshops across western Maine about community and housing co-ops, and we’ve been profiled in local magazines. It is clearer than ever that it has taken a community’s support to get this far, and we will need the support of our community to succeed.
Since purchasing the property, our new neighbors have generously shared stories of the history of the 35 Whitman Street plot and of Ashley Everett, who lived there for about 90 years. We’ve heard about a horse-drawn cart-building shop from the 1800s, the old rumors of moonshine distilleries, and the “Chicken Man” himself with hound dogs, beautiful gardens, and community rhubarb patch. We’ve heard from most everyone that he was a character, a “dying breed” of Maine outdoorsmen, with a cold sense of humor, and unwavering support for his neighbors. Ashley went out of his way to help each of them, giving folks rides to work in snowstorms, trapping pesky skunks, and sharing his birthday cakes with the daycare that used to sit next door.
The support our new neighbors offer us now is proof that some part of his dying breed lives on, and they are Ashley’s legacy in action. They have shared ideas for fundraising, kept an eye on the property for us, volunteered their kids and scout troops to help clean and demo, and even gone so far as to make sure the neighborhood kids who were about to throw rocks at the windows knew that the place was haunted and ran off, and misdirect folks from out of state who inquired about buying the lot before us.
We are inspired and re-ignited to continue blazing this trail, knowing that our neighbors share our concerns about the lack of housing in our area and are here to help. The stories and the support they have shared exemplify our cooperative values of concern for community and make us proud to make this neighborhood our future home.
Our plans are to develop 8-12 net-zero units on the half-acre site in a residential neighborhood within walking distance of Main Street Norway.
Super air-tight, energy-efficient apartments, small studios for individuals, three-bedrooms for families, and accessible units for all who need them. Two south-facing buildings with solar roofs house every unit, because each unit won't need a full-scale kitchen or laundry when theres a third building with industrial kitchen, laundry facilities, and welcoming gathering space for everyone to share. Outside there will be plenty of room to garden and enjoy the outdoors— even EV chargers and bikes to share.
How Does a Housing Cooperative Work?
Cooperatives are a business model that can allow any organization to be owned by its workers, residents, or customers, and democratically run by those owners.
In the housing cooperative model, all resident-owners cooperatively own shares of the corporation that operates as their landlord. This allows resident-owners to decide how the cooperative develops and how income gets reinvested back into the maintenance of their own homes.
NEHC plans to operate as a Limited Equity Housing Cooperative. In order to move in residents would purchase a share in our Cooperative corporation, and pay shared
monthly utility and maintenance fees. Typically, prospective residents live at the cooperative for a "trial period" of six months or more so both the new and existing Cooperative members can decide if the new member is a good fit with the community.
A Limited Equity Cooperative gets its name because it limits the resale of its shares, and the value of a share can only increase at the rate of inflation. This eliminates real estate speculation and ensures units stay affordable over time. The purchase of a member share is a relatively stable investment for residents and builds equity over time— the sale of which could eventually be put toward the purchase of a home if they so choose. This is the only structure we're aware of that creates a path toward homeownership for renters.
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Note from Project Coordinator, Thea Hart
In one year of researching affordable housing development and speaking with experts in the field, it’s been made clear to us that cooperatively-owned housing is relatively new territory for them and that resident-developed projects are nearly unheard of. Those who are in need of quality, affordable, equitable housing rarely have the extra time, energy, money, and connections required to create the housing they need. At times in the past year, our lack of collective equity and our necessarily slower pace has put us at a disadvantage in the competition for development-- but it is clear to me that this project is inspiring many, is unique and adaptable, and is powerful and possible because of the people, shared needs, and vision at the heart of it. Thanks in no small part to the support, networks and resources of CEBE and our steering committee, our core group of hopeful resident-owners has been able to remain at the center of this project and generate the momentum needed to carry it through this past year, and forward.
This project is largely volunteer-led and has been quoted at $2 to $5 million dollars to complete. We are up against large well-resourced developers in the competition for funding through many of the affordable housing programs we are planning to apply to. Our project is unique in addressing the specific needs of our area, and in being visioned and driven by future resident-owners. We need all the support we can get. Please consider making a donation to help provide quality, equitable, energy-efficient, and community-supportive housing in Norway.