Maine governor signs bills meant to boost affordable housing

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 5:07 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WMTW) - Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday signed a pair of bipartisan bills recently passed by the state legislature intended to boost the state’s stock of affordable housing amid a pandemic-driven surge in migration to Maine and home prices.

The first bill, sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, amends zoning regulations to require all municipalities to allow two housing units, such as a duplex or accessory dwelling unit, on any lot previously zoned for a single-family home.

“The bottom line is we just do not have enough housing to keep up with the ever-growing demand in our communities. Mainers are facing rising rental costs, and home prices are climbing. One in every four Mainers are spending more than half of their income to pay for housing,” Fecteau said at the signing ceremony. “It’s simply unsustainable for working families.”

In more populous towns and cities, the law allows up to four units to be built in place in “designated growth areas.”

Developers could also receive a “density bonus” for new properties kept affordable for 30 years.

“Our supply of housing has simply not kept up with demand,” Fecteau said, noting 16,300 people moved from other states to Maine in 2021, elevating Maine to 14th fastest in population growth. “We don’t have enough homes, we don’t have enough apartments to accommodate everyone who wants to call Maine ‘home.’ When supply doesn’t meet demand, prices rise, and we are seeing that in full force right now.”

Mills, a Democrat, said while the state’s housing shortage is not new, the median home price has risen 50% in the past two years.

Mills said of the Fecteau bill: “This proposes a really good balance between private property rights, the rights of local control, reasonable regulation, and the need to control sprawl and provide affordable housing first and foremost.”

The second bill signed by the governor extends from 2025 until 2030 a historical preservation tax credit for developers who convert existing buildings into affordable housing units.

The tax credit helped develop the Hodgkins School Apartments, where the bill signings occurred, affordable apartments for seniors that used to be an Augusta middle school.

Republican Sen. Matt Pouliot, the assistant minority leader, said the tax credit supports “sustainable reuse of properties and brings them up to modern standards for the creation of new housing or work environments for people across Maine.”

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