Maine Governor to Expand Housing Opportunities

Governor Mills Announces $50 Million from Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to Expand Housing Opportunities for Maine People

An initial $10 million to support at least 150 new homes for Maine workers and families is now available through MaineHousing, with additional $40 million available later this year

Augusta, ME (STL.NewsGovernor Janet Mills announced a $50 million investment from her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to build more housing and help more Maine people families find a safe, affordable place to call home.

Maine’s chronic housing shortage has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.  In December, Maine’s median single-family home sale price was $299,000, a 38 percent increase over the median price of $216,900 in February 2020.

Rising housing prices have impacted the affordability of homebuying and renting in Maine, which has hampered the efforts of communities to attract and retain families and of employers seeking workers to fill critical local jobs.

Funding for this initiative is through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act dedicated through Governors’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan.  An initial $10 million is now available through MaineHousing, which is estimated to support at least 150 new affordable single-family homes.  The additional $40 million for housing will become available later this year, when the second part of federal ARPA funds become available.

“A home is more than brick and beams.  It’s a place where you lay your head at night, where you raise your kids, where you get ready for work and where you pay your bills.  The pandemic has put the price of homes, and the dream of home ownership, out of reach for too many hardworking families.  It’s time we fixed that,” said Governor Mills.  “By building more housing across Maine, more families will be able to realize the dream of having a safe, affordable place to live in the communities that they love.”

“MaineHousing greatly appreciates the focus and financial backing the Mills Administration and the Legislature have placed on developing a range of solutions for some of Maine’s most challenging housing problems, whether they be for persons experiencing homelessness, those renting apartments, or those seeking to buy their first home,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan.  “This program will help create desperately needed new, affordable single-family houses, improving the lives and financial stability of Maine families.  With wise use of these critical federal pandemic relief funds, Maine is on a pathway of a brighter housing future in the decades to come.”

“Over the past few years, affordable housing for Maine’s workforce has become harder to come by.  I’m incredibly proud that Maine is addressing this challenge head-on.  Through this funding, Maine workers will be hired to build more safe, affordable housing which is critical to the wellbeing of our communities,” said House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford. “The American Rescue Plan ensures states can use economic recovery funds to meet our greatest challenges and the supply of housing is one of Maine’s biggest issues right now.”

“As a membership organization, Maine Municipal Association recognizes that the housing crisis is quickly becoming an issue for communities of all populations and geographic locations.  Fluctuations in the housing market are making homeownership less of an option, in turn driving lifelong Maine residents away from employment opportunities in the places they call home,”  said James Bennett, Biddeford City Manager and President of the Maine Municipal Association. “Municipal leaders look forward to partnering with the State in implementing solutions, and to that end applaud Governor Mills for releasing this $10 million in federal recovery funds to increase access to affordable homes.  Not only will the investment help address the housing shortage, but tend to the needs of moderate-income families, who are often ineligible for federal and state assistance.”

Governor Mills today also announced funding for two additional housing initiatives from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan:  $1.5 million for housing navigator services, based on an initiative introduced by Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland, and $10 million to support homeless shelters in Maine communities, based on an initiative introduced by Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston.  These initiatives were incorporated into LD 1733, the legislation authorizing the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, and will be administered by MaineHousing.

“Increasing the availability and affordability of housing will benefit everyday Mainers and our economy in the years and decades to come,” said Representative Kristen Cloutier.  “We know that we can’t solve our workforce shortage without giving people the ability to find housing that fits their salaries, and we know that people living on fixed incomes can’t afford to stay in Maine if there aren’t affordable options.  In my community of Lewiston, these investments in housing will mean that more people can live here, work here, and start businesses here.  I’m also grateful that we’ve allocated more funding for emergency shelters, so more communities in Maine will have the ability to help people experiencing homelessness stay safe, access critical services and find permanent housing.”

“With 58 percent of Maine households unable to rent or buy a median price home today, I commend Governor Mills for prioritizing investment in our housing infrastructure and her leadership to ensure that all Maine people have a safe and affordable home,” said Representative Victoria Morales.

The Governor’s work to expand housing and address homelessness builds on her Administration’s commitment to address these critical issues.  One of Governor Mills’ first actions in office was to release $15 million in bonds, held up by the previous administration, that have funded affordable housing units for Maine seniors across the state.

She also signed into law a bill sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau creating the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit Program, an $80 million investment over eight years that represents the single largest state investment in housing in Maine’s history.  In October, Governor Mills and Speaker Fecteau also announced that MaineHousing gained an additional $38.6 million by refinancing existing bonds and purchasing new bonds at lower interest rates, which will be put towards construction of additional affordable housing units in the coming years.

During the pandemic, Governor Mills issued an Executive Order to prevent Maine people from being evicted from their homes and established a rent relief program that has helped Maine successfully prevent evictions at a faster rate than most other states by distributing nearly $116 million in federal rent relief funds to more than 18,500 Maine households in a program administered by MaineHousing.

The Governor also signed into law a bill sponsored by the House Speaker Fecteau establishing the Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions, which recently presented its conclusions to the Maine Legislature.

The Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan is the Governor’s plan, approved by the Legislature, to invest nearly $1 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funds to achieve three goals:  immediate economic recovery from the pandemic;  long-term economic growth for Maine; and infrastructure revitalization.

It draws heavily on recommendations from the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee and the State’s 10-Year Economic Development Strategy, transforming them into real action to improve the lives of Maine people and strengthen the economy.

Funding for the Jobs Plan is through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $4.5 billion in stimulus funds to Maine in 2021.  Coordination of the Jobs Plan is led by the Maine Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

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