Addressing Maine’s Housing Crunch

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

By focusing our efforts things like high-speed internet, and good schools, safe communities, good-paying jobs, and a clean environment — we are attracting new families to our state, and we are strengthening our economy.

That’s good news, but we know that the biggest impediment to our economic growth is a lack of affordable housing for our growing workforce.

Maine’s not alone — the entire country is short millions of units of housing, both for rent and for sale, in part because new housing construction slowed after the Great Recession of 2008 to 2009 and it never truly rebounded.

While this problem is not unique to Maine, at least here we are doing something about it.

In the short term, we’re working with municipal and private organizations on emergency housing to keep people from sleeping on the street, especially during the winter months, and to reduce pressure on local budgets.

At the same time, we are building our housing inventory — something that will increase supply, and reduce prices, and result in good homes for Maine people in the long term.

For example, I signed legislation to create the Affordable Homeownership Program and the Rural Affordable Rental Housing Program, through MaineHousing, to encourage private developers to build affordable homes for people to purchase or to rent.

So far, the Affordable Homeownership Program has 180 units in the pipeline. And in the current supplemental budget, I’ve proposed $10 million to construct another 130 affordable units statewide.

Separately, the Rural Rental Program has funded 106 new units of rental housing in Maine’s rural communities.

Last week, I was also pleased to sign legislation for MaineHousing to issue more bonds to finance affordable rental housing as well as mortgages for first time homebuyers.

Thanks to this new law, and just a portion of the new funding provided by the biennial budget, construction of 105 new affordable rental homes will start soon in Hallowell, Newcastle, Rockport, Rumford, Sanford, and Waterville.

Taken all together, my Administration has authorized almost $285 million in funds that will support the construction of more apartments and homes across Maine. 

These state and federal funds have resulted in more than 600 new residential units being built so far, with more than 1,000 homes under construction, and more than 2,000 units in the pipeline — the highest number ever in MaineHousing’s history.

Well, I am proud of the progress we have made, and I am committed to continuing to work with all these partners statewide to figure out the best ways to target the resources we have to build more housing in Maine, while at the same time minimizing sprawl and preserving open spaces and our special sense of place in Maine.

Whether someone is experiencing homelessness or seeking a new life in our state; whether a person is retired or working full time; whether a person is looking to rent an apartment in a rural town or buy their first home in the city — there should be a place for everyone in Maine.

For the towns and people in those towns who question whether there should be no new projects in their neighborhoods, there is nothing to fear. We need to work together. The whole state needs you to do your part.

We’ve got to work together to increase the availability of comfortable, affordable housing options across Maine until we can tell every person who wants to live and work here, “welcome home.” 

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening. And to those who celebrate, I wish you a Happy Easter.