PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Affordable Housing Coalition held its first in-person Housing Policy Conference since the start of the pandemic in Portland on Thursday.
The event drew hundreds of public and private housing experts, as well as Maine lawmakers, as they looked to discuss potential solutions to address the state's housing crisis.
“The more people we have in a collective voice, the more things get done,“ Maine Affordable Housing Coalition Chair of the Board Amy Cullen said. "It really does take a village.”
Cullen has been in the industry for 16 years and said looking on the bright side, the issues surrounding our housing market have allowed more stakeholders to weigh in on the problems and help solve them.
“Everybody has made this their number one priority, we’re grateful for that," MaineHousing Director Dan Brennan said. “The more housing that gets built, the more affordable it can become and that’s our goal.”
State Sens. Mattie Daughtry, D-Cumberland, and Matthew Pouliot, R-Kennebec, led a "Post-Election Analysis & Discussion" inside The Westin Portland Harborview hotel on Thursday.
“Whether we’re Republican, unenrolled, Democrat, it doesn’t matter, we all need to have a roof over our head," Pouliot said. “If we don’t focus on this as an issue, there’s an inability for us to grow as a state.”
Sens. Daughtry and Brennan also mentioned how housing relates to other issues affecting the state, like education, energy, taxes, and more.
“We need a word stronger than 'crisis' because that’s where we’re at," Daughtry added. “If you don’t have a roof over your head, a lot of things won’t be able to be accomplished.”
Three years ago, the coalition estimated the state was about 19,000 housing units behind the demand, Cullen said. The state and developers set a goal to build 1,000 new units a year to catch up.
“And we’ve averaged three to six hundred per year, so the problem is only getting bigger," Cullen added.
So, the public and private sectors have been looking at new ways to build new units and revitalize old buildings such as schools, hospitals, and mills for other housing options.
Meanwhile, the two legislators at Thursday's event hope their colleagues in Augusta have the same commitment to addressing housing issues when the new legislative session convenes next month,
“I’d really like to see the Maine State Legislature bring about a stand-alone housing committee," Pouliot said.
The two lawmakers added that increasing housing in all corners of Maine can play a huge role in boosting the state's economy.