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Bill would reform Maine zoning regulations, create more housing options

House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, introduced the bill Wednesday.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — There is no one solution to solve the state's housing problem that existed long before COVID, but MaineHousing, the Legislature, and other groups have committed their time to add more housing units to the market.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, introduced a new bill to further that goal by studying zoning and land-use restrictions.

"We owe this to our seniors, to young families who want to make a life here, and our workforce," Fecteau said at a news conference in Brunswick on Wednesday. "We can't cut the red tape if we don't consider what the red tape is in the first place."

Another bill sponsored by Fecteau was passed into law last year, allowing a group of bipartisan lawmakers, real estate experts, and industry leaders to form the Commission to Increase Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions. 

Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Glouchester, is a co-sponsor of the bill and was a housing commission member.

"Municipal home rule is important to many Republicans, but most Republicans support property rights even more. When they look at it from that perspective, I think they will support the bill," she said in a release sent Wednesday.

The bill introduced this week would make all nine recommendations from the commission law. Fecteau said that for the changes to be effective, the state and local municipalities must work together.

To incentivize towns and cities to look into changing any outdated zoning and land-use restrictions, the bill would create a three-year grant program that would give municipalities $25,000 per year to review ordinances that may impact housing availability.

Credit: NCM

In any zone where housing is already permitted, this bill would allow "structures with up to 4 dwelling units [to] be built and allow accessory dwelling units in all Maine towns."

"So homeowners can freely build a structure for their son returning home from college looking for his first job, or older Mainers can be taken care of close to their grandchildren, aging joyfully with the family they love," Fecteau added.

Wednesday's news conference was held at an Accessory Dwelling Unit, operated by Backyard ADUs in Brunswick. The home is one example of Mainers building additional housing units on lots they own for family members or others.

The bill will now be sent to a legislative committee to be worked on.

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