Maine Legislature Pursues Affordable Housing Solutions
This legislative session, one of the biggest priorities for our lawmakers is addressing the growing housing crisis in Maine. 1 in 5 Maine renters pay more than half their income toward housing costs, and, for every family living in an affordable, federally subsidized unit, nearly three families are on a waiting list. Experts estimate that the state currently lacks about 20,000 affordable housing units.
The proposed plans to counteract the crisis vary. The Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, for example, includes $50 million in financing for MaineHousing, which will go towards expanding housing options that are affordable to workers and their families to own or rent. Meanwhile, for those facing the strain of increasing property taxes, Governor Mills has proposed putting $7 million towards increasing the maximum benefit of Maine’s Property Tax Fairness Credit.
Perhaps one of the largest obstacles in the push for affordable housing are zoning laws, which can prevent building houses and other dwellings on certain land or on one’s own property. That’s why House Speaker Ryan Fecteau introduced LD 2003. This bill works off the recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions, created last year by the Legislature.
If passed, LD 2003 would significantly improve conditions for growing Maine’s supply of affordable housing in a number of ways, including:
Instructing the Department of Economic and Community Development to provide technical and financial assistance to municipalities to help adjust and implement zoning and land use ordinances, as well as incentivize cities and towns to review how their current ordinances may impact housing availability;
Establishing a priority development zone in every municipality, in which multifamily housing/apartments can be constructed in a larger quantity, near community resources; and
Requiring municipalities to permit the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) beginning in April 2023. ADUs are additional, smaller housing units on personal property, such as tiny homes, “granny flats,” and “in-law units,” as well as converted garages and basements with separate entrances.
“Adding more housing to the supply is one piece of this puzzle, but it’s a huge piece,” Speaker Fecteau told us. “This bill, LD 2003, is going to solve a big portion of the challenges that we face.”
Mainers for Working Families applauds Speaker Fecteau for his dedication to the issue of affordable housing in Maine, and we urge our leaders in Augusta to pass LD 2003 this session. Every Mainer deserves a safe, affordable place to call home.