AUGUSTA – The Maine Senate unanimously approved legislation to improve access to affordable housing in Maine on Thursday. LD 1645, “An Act To Create Affordable Workforce and Senior Housing and Preserve Affordable Rural Housing” from Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, and co-sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, would double the current rate of new affordable housing production in Maine.
“All across the state, Mainers are struggling to find affordable housing in the communities where they live, work and have built a life,” said Pres. Jackson. “The passage of this bill marks a huge win for working families, and I look forward to seeing it become law.”
“The lack of affordable housing adversely affects Maine workers, seniors, families, and businesses, especially in our coastal communities that have a large tourist population in the summer months. Restaurant and hospitality workers are struggling to find housing near their place of work everywhere from Bar Harbor to Portland, and the problem seems to be growing,” said Sen. Breen. “By improving access to affordable housing in Maine, we are supporting our families and seniors, while shoring up our workforce and strengthening our economy.”
“In Kennebec County, the lack of affordable housing has hit seniors particularly hard. These are our elderly neighbors who have worked hard, contributed to the economy and shaped the communities we know and love,” said Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, and Chair of the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee. “With this bill, Maine seniors can afford to remain vibrant members of our community.”
The amended legislation creates the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit program to meet the growing demand for affordable housing all across the state. The refundable credit, which would be administered by the Maine State Housing Authority, would be available to individuals or corporations who invest in affordable housing.
“This proposal represents the largest investment that Maine has ever made in creating and preserving affordable homes, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time,” said Greg Payne, director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. “Thousands of Mainers who are struggling with the burden of high housing costs will benefit from this new tax credit, and legislative leaders deserve a great deal of credit for stepping up in such a bipartisan way to make it happen.”
The program would be capped at $10 million per year for eight years, with portions earmarked for senior housing and rural housing. It would also leverage an equal amount of federal low-income housing tax credit dollars.
According to the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, only about 52 available affordable housing units exist for every 100 Maine families earning 30 percent or less of the median income.
Gov. Janet T. Mills is expected to sign this legislation into law next week.