In remarks, Governor Mills affirms Maine’s commitment to creating safe, stable, and affordable housing for Maine people to live with dignity and comfort
Governor Janet Mills today joined U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge to launch House America, a new national partnership to tackle homelessness.
House America is the Federal government’s direct response to the nation’s crisis of homelessness and will engage state, county, tribal and local officials to use investments from the American Rescue Plan Act for re-housing and to build additional housing to support people experiencing homelessness.
In opening remarks, Governor Mills affirmed Maine’s commitment to use Federal funds to house 1,000 people experiencing homelessness and add 500 affordable housing units to the state’s pipeline.
“Maine is a proud partner in House America,” said Governor Mills. “We will continue to work hard to see that every person has a safe and stable home, utilizing critical resources from the American Rescue Plan to help house people experiencing homelessness.”
Through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, which is Governor Mills’ plan to invest American Rescue Plan funds, the Governor has allocated $50 million to expand housing options that are affordable to workers and their families to own or rent. This includes expanding Maine’s housing navigator services which connect Maine people and families to housing, assist them with completing rental applications, and support successful landlord-tenant relationships.
During the pandemic, Maine has also successfully prevented evictions at a faster rate than most other states by distributing nearly $63 million in federal rent relief funds to more than 11,000 Maine households (PDF) in a program administered by MaineHousing.
The Governor’s work to expand housing and address homelessness builds on her Administration’s commitment to address these critical issues. One of Governor Mills’ first actions in office was to release $15 million in bonds that have funded affordable housing for Maine seniors. She also signed into law a bill creating the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit Program, which aims to double the current rate of new affordable housing production.
Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature have also partnered on legislation to create a local zoning and land use commission, which is meeting to explore ways of creating additional housing density.
On the national level, COVID-19 has created greater urgency to address homelessness, given the heightened risks faced by people experiencing homelessness. At the same time, COVID-19 has slowed re-housing due to capacity issues and impacts on rental market vacancies.
In March, HUD released its 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1 to Congress, which found that more than 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States on a single night in January 2020, prior to the pandemic.
To learn more about House America, visit: www.hud.gov/house_america.
Governor Mills complete remarks, as prepared for delivery, can be viewed HERE and are below:
As you may know, there is a sign at the Maine State border that reads “Welcome Home.” It’s there so that every person who comes to our state for the first time or the thousandth time knows that they can find a home here.
A home is more than brick and beams. Home is where my husband, Stan, and I raised five daughters. Where we sat at the kitchen table paying bills and helping with homework. It’s where we slept safely every night.
That gift is one I will never take for granted and I am committed to ensuring that every person has a home to call their own.
Today, we take another significant step towards achieving that goal as a proud participant in House America, a national effort to end homelessness.
Here in Maine, we have set a target to re-house 1,000 households currently experiencing homelessness and to add at least 500 new units of affordable or supportive housing for those who are homeless to our pipeline.
In addition to emergency housing vouchers and HOME funds provided to Maine through the American Rescue Plan, my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan recognizes the urgency of housing and homelessness and directs further federal Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds to address immediate needs.
We have created “housing navigators” to connect homeless individuals and families to housing, to assist those individuals with completing rental applications, and to provide support services that promote successful landlord-tenant relationships.
In partnership with the State Legislature, we enacted legislation to create a local zoning and land use commission to explore how we can develop more multifamily affordable housing and we enacted legislation to create the most effective state affordable housing tax credit program in the country.
In partnership with the Maine State Housing Authority, we have also distributed almost $63 million in federal relief funds to 11,460 households, staving off evictions at a rate faster than almost any other state in the nation.
These actions would not have been possible without the tremendous partnership of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Biden Administration. Thank you, Secretary Fudge.
Maine is a proud partner in House America. I look forward to working with my fellow governors and with the federal government to achieve our goal of ending homelessness in our nation until every person can hear those two short words that can mean the world: “Welcome home.”