Addressing Maine’s Housing Shortage

October 6, 2023

My Administration has been focusing on improving the things that people need to live and work in Maine successfully. Things like high-speed internet, good schools, safe communities, good-paying jobs, and a clean environment. Those efforts are attracting new families to our state and strengthening our economy.

That’s all good news, but one of the greatest impediments to our economic growth is the lack of affordable housing for our growing workforce.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Earlier this week, we released a study that describes causes of our housing shortage and identifies housing goals that would support our expanding workforce strengthen our economy based on current projections.

That study makes clear that Maine has a large unmet need now of housing, and, an increasing need for more homes over the coming decade.

Of course, Maine is not alone in this housing shortage. The entire country is short millions of homes, both for rent and for sale, in part because new housing construction slowed down after the recession of 2008 to 2009 and it never truly rebounded.

Still, while states across the country are struggling with a housing shortage, Maine is one of the few states that is doing something about it.

We’ve been focused on building more workforce housing and more housing in general, on rehabbing and restoring our housing stock, on strengthening emergency shelters and support services to make sure every person in Maine has a safe place to sleep at night.

Since I took office in 2019, we have authorized nearly $285 million, an unprecedented amount of money, to incentivize the building of more apartments and homes. These state and federal funds have now built 618 new homes, with 1,126 homes under construction, and 2,187 more homes in the pipeline.

While we welcome the development of new housing statewide, we’ve focused on affordable housing for people of all incomes, especially in rural Maine.

  • For example, I signed legislation to create the State Affordable Housing Tax Credit. Budgeted at $80 million, that tax credit was the largest single investment in housing in Maine’s history.
  • I signed legislation to create the Affordable Homeownership Program and the Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program to provide housing in rural Maine.
  • I signed legislation to address our outdated zoning restrictions and allow the building of “accessory dwelling units,” or what I call “in-law” apartments, so homeowners can build new units on their property, at the same time limiting sprawl.
  • I signed the affordable senior housing bond as soon as I took office to build more affordable housing units and weatherize homes for low-income seniors.
  • I used federal funding to install heat pumps in mobile homes and weatherize those homes to bring down the energy costs for low-income families.
  • I signed legislation to adopt the highly successful “housing first” model to address the needs of people experiencing chronic homelessness, many of whom are suffering from acute mental health and/or substance use disorder.
  • And I dedicated funding to address the needs of asylum seekers as they transition to their new lives so that they can enter the workforce as quickly as possible.

I am proud of the progress we have made on housing, but it’s clear that work remains. This new housing report shows without a doubt that the need for affordable housing in Maine is serious, and it’s growing.

I read something recently that said, “home wasn’t built in a day,” and I agree. Ultimately, we want to build permanent, affordable, comfortable housing for all who need it or who want it here in Maine, so that all people can become productive citizens and live and work and raise a family here in our state.

That may mean transforming existing buildings, that may mean taking old schoolhouses and turning them into rental apartments. It may mean more boarding homes of the sort that I used to see when I was growing up in Farmington. Workforce housing of a variety of sorts. And affordable housing. And housing, certainly for Maine’s seniors. Comfortable, safe, affordable housing.

My Administration will continue that work until we can tell every person who wants to live in Maine, “welcome home.”

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.