Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis- Part One
This is Part One of a 3-part special report
Maine (WABI) - Finding a place to call home in Maine is at a crisis level.
Real estate and construction costs continue to skyrocket, further crowding an already tight rental market.
Housing is considered affordable if you don’t spend more than 30% of your income on housing related expenses.
Chances are, many of you fall into the category known as cost burdened.
Some communities are taking matters into their own hands, and their innovative efforts are getting noticed.
Here’s Joy Hollowell with part one of a special report.
“The inability to find an affordable place to live is the number one reason we exist.”
Steph Primm is the Executive Director of the Knox County Homeless Coalition. They’ve noticed a major shift in who is reaching out to their organization for help.
“A lot more moderate income families, a lot more retirees,” says Primm. “We’ve seen countless multi-family buildings sell to folks, and our clients will get evicted because someone wants to renovate that property into a high end seasonal rental.”
It’s a problem that’s not unique to Knox County.
“Our housing supply is simply inadequate to meet demand.”
Greg Payne was recently appointed by Governor Mills as the Senior Advisor for Housing Policy in the Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.
“One of the things that’s happened is people who would typically be in the home ownership market can’t find a place to buy,” explains Payne. “And so as a result, they’re further crowding an already overcrowded rental market. And all that does in push up prices.”
27,000 households in Maine are currently waiting for Section 8 vouchers, but that federal subsidy means nothing if there’s no place to use them.
Rick Bresnahan and his wife, Ann, founded Hope for the Future. The local philanthropist says he was driving by the former Pen Bay Pediatrics building on Madelyn Lane in Rockport and noticed it was for sale.
“I saw 20,000 square feet, sent an email to both the Knox County Homeless Coalition and Habitat for Humanity - could you use it? They both said yes, so I bought it,” says Bresnahan.
That was last July.
The Bresnahans and Knox County Homeless Coalition saw this former medical complex as a unique opportunity to create both a public and privately funded affordable housing complex.
“We realized all these little offices made total, logical sense to convert them into single resident occupancy units, some family units,” explains Primm.
Some of the common spaces will be used for residential services including a pilot program to introduce mental and physical health resources.
“This particular project with the Knox County Homeless Coalition is a creative, new idea to try and tackle and old problem that’s not going away,” says Mark Primeauy, Senior Program Manager for the Genesis Fund.
The non-profit, Genesis Fund in Southern Maine is now helping KCHC to eventually purchase the property from Hope for the Future as well as secure funding for the onsite programs.
“Our mission is to support community organizations that are developing housing and facilities for people who have been left behind by the mainstream economy,” says Liza Fleming-Ives, Executive Director of the Genesis Fund.
“It just feels better to help someone out rather than judge,” says Bresnahan. “It’s impressive how quickly people have come together because they feel that they have the opportunity for hope and that this project will actually get done.”
The Rockport property sits on six acres.
Plans are to open the first building in early 2023 with the project completed the following year.
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