6.  HOUSING

 

Westport's dwellings have been and continue to be almost exclusively single-family homes.  The number of housing units has kept pace with the population, there having been a decrease in the average number of persons per household over the years 1970-2000.  The age and condition of the structures are not seen as cause for concern.

 

Housing demand has historically been met by house-by-house construction, usually on the orders of the future owner and resident.  Few houses have been built on the island for speculation.  There have been no housing developments. Demand for year-round housing has been met by new construction and the conversion of seasonal dwellings. Rental units are available, but are few in number.

 

Basically, Westport is a bedroom community, with most of the working population finding employment on the mainland. No major employers are located on the island, and chances appear small any will establish themselves here, due to Westport's small size, location off main routes, and relatively high land costs. 

                       

The following tables provide information about the number, value, affordability and other characteristics of Westport's housing stock.

 

Changes in Total Housing Stock

 

Table 1 includes a summary of the changes in total housing stock since 1980 in Westport, Lincoln County and the State.  Between 1980 and 1990, Westport experienced an increase of 69 housing units, resulting in a housing growth rate of 21%, which was higher than that of Lincoln County and the State. Between 1990 and 2000, there was an increase of 111 housing units resulting in a growth rate of 28% which was significantly higher than in the County or State. Based on the growth rate of the last 20 years, Westport can anticipate an increase of 107-142 housing units over the next 10 years.

 

 

Table 1

Changes In Total Housing Stock

 

 

Total Number of Units
Increases, 1980-90
Increases, 1990-2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1980

1990

2000

#

%

#

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport

330

399

510

69

21

111

28

Lincoln County

14,977

17,538

20,849

2,561

17

3,311

19

State of Maine

501,093

587,045

651,901

85,952

17

64,856

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Source: U.S. Census, 1980, 1990, 2000

 

 

Housing Types

 

Table 2 contains a breakdown of housing units in 1990 by housing type, as reported in the 1990 Census (as of this writing, a similar breakdown is not yet available from the 2000 Census).  The category “multi-family dwellings” includes duplexes, which the Census did not tabulate separately.  In 1990, 87% of the housing units in Westport were single family dwellings.  This is a much high percentage than in Lincoln County (79%) or the State as a whole (65%).  Westport has a much lower percentage of multi-family dwellings (1%) than Lincoln County (8%) or the State (24%), but about the same percentage of mobile homes (12%).

 

 

Table 2

Total Housing Units By Type Of Structure

 

 

Single-Family

Dwellings

Multi-Family

Dwellings

 

Mobile Homes

 

Total

 

#

%

#

%

#

%

#

1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport

348

87

4

1

47

12

399

Lincoln County

13,774

79

1,406

8

2,358

13

17,538

State of Maine

378,413

65

140,613

24

68,019

12

587, 045

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport

 

 

 

 

 

 

510

Lincoln County

 

 

 

 

 

 

20,849

State of Maine

 

 

 

 

 

 

651,901

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: U.S. Census, 1990, 2000

 

Housing Occupancy Characteristics

 

Table 3 contains information on the total number year-round and seasonal dwellings in Westport and Lincoln County.  Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of year-round dwellings in Westport fluctuated substantially, ranging from a low of 52% in 1980 to a high of 70% in 1990.  During the same 20-year period, the percentage of year-round housing in Lincoln County remained relatively constant (71%-73%).  The conversion from seasonal to year-round dwellings may account for some of the statistical changes in Westport.  In recent years, there have been fewer conversions.  Most of the older cottages have been replaced by newer homes.

 

Table 4  contains information on owner-occupied and renter-occupied dwellings in Westport and Lincoln County.  Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of owner-occupied dwellings remained the same (83%).  In Westport, however, the percentage of owner-occupied dwellings gradually increased from 81% in 1980 to 89% in 2000.

 

           

           

 

 

 

Table 3

Year-Round and Seasonal Dwellings

 

 

Total

Dwellings

Total Year Round

Dwellings

Total Seasonal

Dwellings

 

#

#

%

#

%

Westport

 

 

 

 

 

1980

330

170

52

160

48

1990

399

280

70

119

30

2000

510

336

66

174

34

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln County

 

 

 

 

 

1980

14,977

10,590

71

4,387

29

1990

17,538

12,852

73

4,686

27

2000

20,849

14,989

72

5,860

28

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: U.S. Census, 1980, 1990, 2000

 

 

Table 4

Housing Occupancy Characteristics

 

 

Total Occupied

Owner Occupied

Dwellings

Renter Occupied

Dwellings

 

#

#

%

#

%

Westport

 

 

 

 

 

1980

158

128

81

30

19

1990

265

223

84

42

16

2000

318

283

89

35

11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lincoln County

 

 

 

 

 

1980

9,494

7,896

83

1,598

17

1990

11,968

9,955

83

2,013

17

2000

14,158

11,755

83

2,403

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: U.S. Census, 1980, 1990, 2000

 

Housing Age and Services

 

Table 5 contains information on the age of housing and the percentage of homes with complete plumbing and kitchen facilities, as well as the percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms. Statistics on the age of housing have sometimes been used as a measure of the extent of substandard housing, but these are not necessarily a reliable gauge.  Old housing in Westport does not necessarily mean deteriorated housing.  As shown in Table 5, Westport has a lower percentage of homes constructed before 1939 (28%) than Lincoln County (39%), and a slightly higher percentage of homes with four or more bedrooms (20%) than in Lincoln. Westport has a very high percentage of homes with complete plumbing and kitchen facilities.

 

 

Table 5

Year – Round Housing Age And Other  Characteristics – 1990

 

 

Structure Built Between

1980-90

Structure Built Before

1939

4 or

More

Bedrooms

Complete

Plumbing

Facilities

Complete

Kitchen

Facilities

 

%

%

%

%

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport

32

28

20

98

-

Lincoln County

21

39

19

97

98

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: 1990 Census

 

Housing Values and Costs

 

Based on 1990 Census data, as shown in Table 6, the median value of a home in Westport ($122,300) was substantially higher than it was in Lincoln County ($103,000) or the State ($87,400).  Median owner costs with a mortgage ($840) were much higher than in the other two jurisdictions.  Gross rent in Westport ($346) was significantly lower than in either Lincoln County ($438) or the State ($419).

 

Housing costs have risen significantly since 1990.  Based on data obtained from the Maine Municipal Association, the median home value in Westport in 1999 was $148,993.  Based on information from the Maine Real Estate Information System, the median selling price of a home in Lincoln County in 2000 was $111,450.

 

 

TABLE 6

1990 Housing Costs

 

 

 

 

Median Owner Costs

 

Median Rental Costs

 

Median Value Owner Occupied Unit

With Mortgage

Without

Mortgage

Gross

Rent

% of

Income

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport

$122,300

$840

$163

$346

12.2

Lincoln County

$103,000

$619

$212

$438

26.0

State of Maine

$87,400

$664

$222

$419

26.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: 1990 Census

 

Housing Affordability

 

One of the goals set forth in the State’s growth management law is to encourage and promote affordable, decent housing opportunities for all Maine citizens.”  The law is based on the premise that any village or town is a more desirable place to live when composed of citizens of all income levels.  Affordable, decent housing to accommodate a portion of all income levels is identified as an important element to providing a foundation for economic balance.  However, the steady rise in land and home values has created difficult obstacles for low-income people.

 

Westport is a relatively long and narrow rock-island on the lower Sheepscot River.  The consequence of this geographic distinction is that the great majority of the buildable land is on the shoreline where property values have escalated. 

 

The State’s growth management law requires that each municipality “…shall seek to achieve a level of 10% of new residential development, based on a 5-year historical average of residential development in the municipality, meeting the definition of affordable housing.”  Affordable housing is defined as an owner-occupied unit whose price results in a monthly housing cost that does not exceed 30% of the household’s gross monthly income.  Monthly cost includes mortgage principal and interest, insurance, real estate taxes and utilities.  A rental unit would follow the same formula, where the monthly rate includes utilities.

 

The 1990 Census documents that 9.6% of the population in Lincoln County (2.0% in Westport) were below the poverty level in 1989.  According to a 1997 Census estimate, very little has changed over the years – 9.6% of the population in Lincoln County are still below the poverty level.  The 1997 Census estimate of Lincoln County’s median household income was $35,696; a low income family is one that is at 80% of median household income ($28,557) or below, while a very low income family is one that is at 50% of median household income ($17,848) or below. 

 

Applying the formulas for monthly housing costs:

 

            Very Low Income: $17,848 x 30%/12 = $446/month

            Low Income: $17,849 - $28,557 x 30%/12 = $446 - $714/month

 

According to the 2000 Census, there are 318 occupied homes on Westport. According to the latest data from the Assessor’s office, there are 45 mobile homes on the island.  Year-round rental rates for mobile homes are now between $400 per month (two bedroom) and $500 per month (three bedroom).  The current housing stock appears to meet or exceed the need for low cost housing for low and very low income people.

 

Nevertheless, affordable housing is an issue with which Westport must be concerned. Existing ordinances permitting low cost mobile and moveable homes must be maintained. Westport’s ordinances currently permit the construction or creation of duplex homes or apartments, and this will help increase the number of available rental units. We do not believe that acreage restrictions should be relaxed, because of Westport's very limited land area and the importance of maintaining high septic waste standards to protect the island's water supply.