Housing crisis

Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis – Part One

Maine (WABI) – Finding a home in Maine is at a critical point.

Real estate and construction costs continue to soar, further encumbering an already tight rental market.

Housing is considered affordable if you spend no more than 30% of your income on housing-related expenses.

Chances are many of you fall into the category known as overcost.

Some communities are taking matters into their own hands and their innovative efforts are getting noticed.

Here’s Joy Hollowell with part one of a special report.

=====

“The inability to find affordable housing is the main reason we exist.”

Steph Primm is the executive director of the Knox County Homeless Coalition. They have noticed a major shift in who comes to their organization for help.

“A lot more low-income families, a lot more retirees, says Primm. “We’ve seen countless multi-family properties sell to people, and our customers will be kicked out because someone wants to renovate that property into a high-end vacation rental.”

This is a problem that is not unique to Knox County.

“Our housing supply is simply insufficient to meet the demand.”

Greg Payne was recently appointed by Governor Mills to serve as Senior Housing Policy Advisor in the Office of Policy Innovation and Futures.

“One of the things that’s happened is that people who would typically be in the homeownership market can’t find a place to buy,” Payne says. “And so, as a result, they’re further crowding an already overcrowded rental market. And all of that drives prices up.

27,000 Maine households are currently waiting for Section 8 vouchers, but this federal grant means nothing if there is no place to use them.

Rick Bresnahan and his wife, Ann, founded Hope for the Future. The local philanthropist says he was walking past the old Pen Bay Pediatrics building on Madelyn Lane in Rockport and noticed it was for sale.

“I saw 20,000 square feet, emailed the Knox County Homeless Coalition and Habitat for Humanity – could you use it? They both said yes, so I bought,” says Bresnahan.

It was last July.

The Bresnahans and Knox County Homeless Coalition saw this former medical complex as a unique opportunity to create both a public and private affordable housing complex.

“We realized that all of these small offices made total and logical sense to convert them into single-resident occupancy units, some family units,” says Primm.

Some of the common spaces will be used for residential services, including a pilot program to introduce mental and physical health resources.

“This particular project with the Knox County Homeless Coalition is a creative new idea to try to solve an old problem that isn’t going away,” said Mark Primeauy, senior program manager for the Genesis Fund.

The nonprofit Genesis Fund in southern Maine is now helping KCHC eventually purchase the property from Hope for the Future as well as secure funding for on-site programs.

“Our mission is to support community organizations that develop housing and facilities for people who have been left behind by the mainstream economy,” said Liza Fleming-Ives, CEO of the Genesis Fund.

“It’s better to help someone than to judge,” says Bresnahan. “It’s impressive to see how quickly people have come together because they feel that they have the possibility of hope and that this project will actually be realized.”

======

The Rockport property sits on six acres.

It is planned to open the first building in early 2023 and the project will be completed the following year.

======

Coming Together to Solve Maine’s Housing Crisis – Part Two

Copyright 2022 WABI. All rights reserved.