WELLS, SACO AND BRUNSWICK – Today, Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford hosted a tour and press conference to unveil a new bill to address Maine’s affordable housing crisis. LD 2003 “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions” was released this week and is expected to have a public hearing before Maine’s Labor and Housing Committee. LD 2003 includes all nine recommendations from the Commission to Increase Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions.
LD 2003 WOULD:
- Empower municipalities to make changes to foster better conditions for housing construction
- Forge a state and local partnership to address the housing crisis
- Give communities incentives to talk through tough zoning issues with incentives offered if they adopt policy changes
- Create a statewide incentive program in which any municipality may participate for up to 3 years and receive grants of up to $25,000 per year for reviewing how its zoning and land use ordinances may impact the availability of housing.
- Answer the calls of municipalities who’ve asked for technical assistance so they can develop and implement their new zoning and land use ordinances; with grants for municipalities to help administer their responsibilities in developing and implementing zoning and land use ordinances at the local level.
- Allow, in any zone in which housing is already permitted, that structures with up to 4 dwelling units can be built and allow accessory dwelling units in all Maine towns.
- Prohibit ordinances that cap the number of building or development permits each year for any kind of residential dwellings. The bill also amends the fair housing provisions of the Maine Human Rights Act so no Maine government entity can use outdated terms or relics of redlining to restrict the construction or development of housing.
- Requires our towns and cities to allow affordable housing to be built at certain densities and ensures that affordable housing developments remain affordable for at least 30 years to ensure stability for families of all ages.
“The lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis level. Before it impacts our children’s futures and their ability to make a life for themselves in Maine, I believe we need to act. We can do that today by simply removing outdated zoning regulations that prevents housing from being built,” said Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford. “So supply meets demand, we need all types of housing—including affordable housing—in every Maine community. We owe this to our seniors, young families who want to make a life here, and our workforce. This bill incentivizes municipalities who work toward updating their zoning rules so we are all working together proactively to address the housing crunch Maine people are experiencing.”
“Access to affordable housing is a human right. Having a safe, stable place to rest your head and call home is the foundation from which all other progress grows. If we want to ensure people can stay to work, raise a family and eventually retire in Maine, we must also ensure they can afford to live here. This bill from the zoning commission, which I was proud to chair, will break down barriers to affordable housing in Maine,” said Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, a co-sponsor of the bill. “From the beginning of civilization, ‘home’ has been not just a roof over your head, but about people living together in communities to look out for each other, in good times and bad. In our modern age, that means everything from making way for more multi-family homes to allowing people to add space to their homes to take care of an aging family member.”
“I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan bill, which provides a free-market solution to housing shortages and honors property rights. Municipal home rule is important to many Republicans, but most Republicans support property rights even more. When they look at it from that perspective, I think they will support the bill,” said Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester, a co-sponsor of the bill and housing commission member.
“We must change our zoning laws if we are serious about solving the housing crisis. Many years ago, I experienced the fear of homelessness as a single parent with two small children. Now I’m an employer and a landlord in a part of the state that is increasingly unaffordable. We’ve pushed people to have to live further and further from good jobs, opportunities, and services. Maine people deserve safe, affordable housing,” said Cheryl Golek of Harpswell, a housing commission member.
“I urge my fellow municipal leaders – especially my fellow mayors – to take the needed steps, starting with the difficult – conversations about inclusivity and fairness. To advocate and promote ordinance and zoning changes that eliminate barriers to growth, both municipal growth and growth of the individual. Embrace change, put action into words, and own the issue and the solutions. This is not an issue that the “other towns” have. It is all our issue; Maine’s issue, and we must act regionally. The world does not begin and end at our municipal borders. The future of our state, its residents and its economy will depend on the actions that our legislature and our municipalities take over the next few months. If we wait for someone else to solve our problems, we will fail,” said Jason Levesque, Mayor of Auburn. Auburn has overhauled their zoning rules over the last four years, eliminating single family zones and parking minimums, passing Maine’s most flexible accessory dwelling unit ordinances and eliminating some permitting fees.
“Prioritizing efficient, affordable, and safe housing for all Maine people is integral to protecting our communities from climate change impacts and from historically unfair and exclusionary housing restrictions,” said Beth Ahearn, Director of Government Affairs at Maine Conservation Voters. “We applaud the Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine’s co-chairs Speaker Fecteau and Sen. Hickman for their leadership in advancing opportunities for equitable and climate-resilient housing across Maine.”
“The Park Village neighborhood in Saco is a great example of a mixture of housing that grew organically. There are modest single-family homes for retirees and first-time homeowners, affordable apartments for older adults and people with disabilities, multi-story houses, and a large condominium complex all within walking distance of each other. You simply don’t see that happening anywhere in the state of Maine anymore. This legislation will make it easier to facilitate a diverse mix of housing development and increase the number of affordable housing communities that are so desperately needed,” said Dana Totman, President and CEO of Avesta Housing and housing commission member. Totman led a tour through the Park Village neighborhood in Saco on Wednesday morning with Speaker Fecteau and Rep. Lynn Copeland.
“There is no single answer when it comes to resolving Maine’s affordable housing shortage,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said. “Success will depend on creative problem solving and a multi-faceted approach that engages support from municipal leaders, as well as private and non-profit professionals. It will require us at the state level to forge new relationships and try new ideas and do things in ways we haven’t before. This kind of flexibility coupled with ongoing financial support from our elected leaders at the state and federal level will be critical as we continue our work to ensure all Mainers have a safe, warm and affordable place to call home.”
“During my time as Chair of the Labor and Housing Committee I was shown first-hand just how severe our state’s housing situation is. The state should be doing all we can to combat this,” said Sen. Joe Rafferty, D-Kennebunk. “In order to do this, we will have to get creative and find new ways to make affordable housing possible for Mainers. A big part of that involves changing certain zoning restrictions to make it easier to build suitable housing. As legislators, we have to pull any lever we can to ensure Mainers have a safe, comfortable and affordable place to call home.”
FACTS ON THE HOUSING CRISIS
- States all over the country are facing a supply and demand problem when it comes to housing. As Maine leads the nation in in-migration, the housing shortage is expected to get worse without immediate action.
- Maine needs to build 1000 affordable units each year to meet demand. From 2014-2020, we were building only 25% of that need on average.
- Multifaceted approaches are needed to solve the statewide affordable housing crisis. Maine recently invested $50 million in ARPA funds to build new units and additional $80 million through the Affordable Housing Tax Credit. Beyond investments, Maine must review and update regulations that prevent new housing from being built.