SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Avesta Housing, northern New England's largest affordable housing nonprofit, recorded a sizeable increase in applications in 2021.
The vast majority of applicants were unable to find a home.
The organization released its 2021 data at the end of March. A total of 6,231 people applied for housing assistance through Avesta, a 32% increase from 2020. Around 34% of all applicants identified as being homeless.
Rebecca Hatfield, Avesta's senior vice president of real estate, said she and her peers continuously seek new construction projects to add affordable housing stock to the market.
While Avesta claimed 179 new homes in its real estate arsenal last year, 7.8% of all applicants were placed in housing; down from 9.2% in 2020.
"The need for affordable housing is greater than it's ever been," Hatfield said as NEWS CENTER Maine toured one of Avesta's latest projects; a multi-building, 100+ unit complex on Westbrook Street in South Portland.
"We're not going to stop looking," she continued. "We're going to continue to reach out to communities, find land, and work with towns in order to build more affordable housing."
Dan Brennan, director of the state's housing authority, said Avesta's numbers reflect what he sees from most other organizations he works with at the state level.
"Those numbers are very difficult to hear, but that is our current situation," Brennan said. "The gap between people's income and their ability to afford the rising cost of housing is just staggering."
Brennan said Maine housing organizations built 524 units last year, double the usual output.