Housing crisis

Our point of view: the housing crisis is everywhere, just like homelessness

Maine’s affordable housing crisis is weighing on nearly everyone. But this weighs more heavily on households that are already barely getting by.

For these people, all it takes is one disruption — a job change, a rent increase, a sudden health problem — and they could end up on the street.

With housing prices rising everywhere, many Maine residents have found themselves in this location. Community after community, people who were just struggling to make ends meet are falling into homelessness.

It’s a clear sign of the severity of Maine’s housing crisis — a reminder of what the state is facing.

Most people are aware of the problems associated with homelessness in Portland, which, due to its size and the services it offers, has had a high homeless population for decades, and where the increase in cost of living has compounded the problem.

But many of the same factors affect people elsewhere. On the South Portland Bridge, city officials are offering more resources to homeless residents as they see that number growing.

The housing crisis has also left more people homeless in Westbrook, the American Journal reported last month, with a local pastor saying he “sees people who have had apartments for years suddenly living in their cars “.

The same dynamic was reported last month in Biddeford, once a source of cheap housing that is now attracting new residents, forcing prices up, just as they did in Portland a decade ago. years. Now more and more people are on the verge of losing their homes, the Press Herald wrote on April 3.

Lewiston is also experiencing an increase in homelessness which the city is now trying to address. Even smaller communities, like those in the Sebago Lakes region, are seeing more and more of their residents struggle with stable housing.

Further north, residents of the Waterville and Augusta areas have also struggled to find housing, forcing some to take shelter, couch-surfing or even camping.

“Those on the edges are probably struggling to find that roof over their heads,” Biddeford town staff wrote in a recent report. “Lower-income households who have lived in Biddeford for some time are now experiencing rising housing costs and increased housing instability.

An Affordable Housing Bill is now before the Legislative Assembly. If passed, it would require communities to allow multi-unit development and encourage greater density in housing development. Ultimately, this should lead to more housing for everyone and more options besides single-family homes, which would help reduce costs.

But that won’t be enough to fill the void for low-income Maine households, more than half of whom pay more than half their income for housing. Even with the requirements and incentives, private developers will mostly choose to build housing at market price, which would improve the overall housing situation but not affect low-income residents much.

To help their residents who are homeless or on the brink, the state and individual communities must invest in affordable housing, so low-income people can live there and still have money in their pockets. The market, left alone, simply does not provide it. Public investment is crucial, as Governor Mills and the Legislature, as well as some local governments, have shown in recent years.

They also need to be creative in considering options such as boarding houses that can serve as low-barrier, low-cost housing for people who need it immediately. They should offer services and supports near affordable housing that address other factors of homelessness, such as health care and transportation.

There are many reasons why people fall into homelessness. But the biggest problem right now is that they can’t afford to buy a house.

As the cost of housing in Maine continues to rise, more and more Mainers will fall into this category.

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