Maine Senate passes LD 2003 zoning reform bill to address housing crisis

AUGUSTA – A bill from Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford intended to grow affordable housing options in Maine was voted on by the Senate today. The bill passed with bipartisan support, 20-13. 

The legislation, LD 2003, “An Act To Implement the Recommendations of the Commission To Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions has now received bipartisan support in both Chambers as well as from a wide array of bipartisan stakeholders as a step in the right direction toward solving Maine’s affordable housing crisis. 

 “The lack of affordable housing in Maine has reached a crisis level and we all understand there is a need to act. Today’s vote shows Maine is ready to remove the barriers that stand in the way of increasing housing supply. We are empowering Mainers to contribute solutions to the housing crisis in their own backyards,” said Speaker Ryan Fecteau. “This legislation could create more housing opportunities in every community in Maine.”

“The heart of LD 2003 is the belief that housing is a human right. Every Mainer, from Kittery to Fort Kent, from the rocky eastern coast to the western mountains, deserves a safe place to call home. Right now, Maine is facing a dire affordable housing crisis. Working families are being priced out of not just the housing market, but often their own apartments. Businesses looking to hire new workers are struggling because even when they do find a good candidate, they can’t find a place to live. Middle-class Mainers are losing grip on the American dream of buying their own home and putting down roots. Seniors cannot afford to age in place,” said Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop. “The final version of this bill is the result of a lot of thought, care, respect, hard work and compromise. I’m heartened by the strong support this bill received in the Legislature.”

“The housing market, like all markets, is subject to the law of supply and demand. For a long time, government over-regulation has distorted the housing market. I cosponsored this bill with Speaker Fecteau because it includes a free-market solution to housing shortages and honors property rights,” said Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester. “It used to be that a hard-working person of modest means would notice a demand for housing and then construct a small multifamily property to meet that demand, and perhaps live in it himself or herself. Overly-strict zoning ordinances put an end to that, and now our society has become overly dependent on large corporations to supply most housing. This bill will allow regular, hard-working people, to build up to four units of housing on their property, subject to common-sense regulations to preserve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. It also allows the supply of housing to rise to meet demand without taxpayer dollars, lowering the cost of housing.”

“In Maine’s economic development strategic plan, the need for workforce housing is clear. Over the next 10 years, we know we need 75,000 people to come to Maine to make up for the 65,000 who will be leaving the workforce. To deny the link between housing and our workforce needs completely misses the point. Today is the beginning of the way to get it right. LD 2003 paves the way for us to address this issue,” said Dana Connors, President of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. 

“Too often, local zoning looks to the past, and we need to find ways to look ahead. Sometimes Maine’s towns and cities need a little push to get us where we need to go, and this bill is just such a push,” said Ed Glaser, Mayor of Rockland. 

“Maine can be a leader in how we tackle housing affordability. If more Mainers were able to build in-law apartments and grow the supply of housing in their own communities and backyards without large public investments, it would help individual families and provide more options for young families looking to buy a first home and older Mainers who want to downsize into a home they can manage and afford. It makes sense for a state like ours,” said Anne-Marie Mastraccio, Mayor of Sanford.

“The Maine Real Estate and Development Association celebrates the passage of LD 2003 to accelerate housing development in Maine. This legislation is a critical first step toward ensuring the adequate and attainable housing that will form the foundation for economic development and long term prosperity for Maine people in the coming decade. We urge the Senate to follow the House in approving this critical measure,” said Elizabeth Frazier on behalf of The Maine Real Estate and Development Association, MEREDA.

“LD 2003 helps address this housing crisis by providing new opportunities for small developers to be a part of the solution. Maine needs more housing of every kind, and “missing middle” housing is something that many homeowners and small landlords can provide for their extended family, friends, and neighbors, and LD 2003 empowers them to do so,” said Carl L. Sheline, Mayor of Lewiston.

The bill would allow Maine property owners to build accessory dwelling units in residential areas and allow up to two units on a lot zoned for single-family housing. For larger communities with designated “growth areas,” up to four units could be allowed. Local rules around setbacks, height and dimensional requirements would still have to be met for all projects. These efforts are expected to increase the number of affordable units in the state of Maine, empowering Mainers to contribute solutions to the housing crisis in their own backyards. In addition, the bill would require the state to provide municipalities with grants and technical assistance as they revise zoning regulations for the modern day and update ordinances at the local level around important housing-related issues. 


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