Next week, Falmouth town councilors will vote on a proposal for workforce housing development on a town-owned site near the police department.

As a business owner, a major local employer and someone passionately committed to economic and environmental sustainability, I can’t stress how important it is that the town moves forward with this project.

Community leaders have been talking about the need for housing that workers can afford since I first started doing business in Falmouth more than 40 years ago. The need was flagged as a major problem in the 2000 and 2013 Comprehensive Plans, and yet again during Falmouth’s recent Vision and Values initiative. Over the years, proposals from developers never came to fruition. Today, the median home price in Falmouth is now $804,500, according to data from the town. In order to afford a house at that price, you’d need an income of nearly $255,000 – that’s more than three times the median household income for the state.

Here at OceanView at Falmouth, we are feeling the impact of the shortage in a major way. We employ more than 200 people across our nursing, dining, maintenance, housekeeping, transportation, administration and other departments. A typical commute for one of our employees is anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes, and they come from as far as Kennebec County. Many who can’t make long commutes have had to settle for sub-optimal housing options closer to work. We have lost many promising job candidates because they couldn’t find an affordable place to live within a reasonable driving distance.

To meet that need, we started creating employee housing of our own. We recently bought a four-bedroom home near our campus, which we’re renting to three employees. We set rent at 30% of their incomes, which is lower than current market rates. The individuals who are living there now have been able to pick up more hours because they’re nearby. Most importantly, they’re living in safe, pleasant conditions, and they’re saving money. All the employees who are renting happen to work in the nursing department, where our needs are particularly acute. We realize that many more members of our staff would love to rent housing that could accommodate their families, so we plan to develop two more duplexes for that purpose, and we’re actively looking for more development sites.

We need to make this investment. But it is increasing our cost of doing business here. And that’s what people fail to realize. Falmouth has become an extremely expensive place to live. If we don’t provide housing the people who work in the community can afford, we’re making it an extremely expensive place to do business, too.


As a community, one of our signature strengths is our abundance of services and amenities. We’ve got this wonderfully eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, groceries, yoga studios, bookstores, car dealerships, beauty salons, fitness centers, coffee shops, an amazing library, outstanding public schools, a myriad of nonprofits that provide critical services to residents of all ages from seniors to kids, plus incredible arts organizations that bring us everything from theater to ballet. Just imagine what Falmouth would be like without all those institutions. Falmouth just wouldn’t be Falmouth.

If businesses, nonprofits and service providers can’t find people who can afford to live close to work, or commute a reasonable distance, they start to cut hours and shut down, or move out of town.

The lack of workforce housing has so many other detrimental ripple effects. If most people working in Falmouth have long commutes, that means more traffic on the roads. More traffic means more greenhouse gas emissions. It means higher costs for employees. Harder to quantify is the very real toll those long commutes take on the employees and their families.

Earlier this year in Cumberland, voters shot down a referendum to build an apartment complex of affordable housing near the town center. So many of the arguments against it boiled down to “Not in My Backyard.” In my view, it was extremely shortsighted. And I hope that Falmouth’s leaders will take a broader view.

John Wasileski is the owner of OceanView at Falmouth, Cumberland Crossing at OceanView, and Highland Green in Topsham.

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