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Portland among nine cities to participate in NYU housing project

Nine cities will collaborate over the next year as part of a project at NYU's Housing Solutions Lab.

PORTLAND, Maine — Matt Grooms has a vision for Portland. 

As a senior planner for the city, he needs to get creative to find new housing options.

"We’re kind of on this forefront of this new housing dilemma, where we are seeing prices go up and up because people from away are able to afford to buy housing stock that exists here currently," Grooms said. "Yet, meanwhile, there's still the very real reality for people who live and work here, whose salaries are what they are, and it's a challenge."

His ambitions include the recent re-zoning of a commercial property to allow for more than 100 apartments steps from the lucrative Old Port neighborhood. When finished, the building carries with it the promise of rent that bankers and baristas alike can afford.

Grooms is open to suggestion for more projects, as his office aims to carry out its comprehensive 10-year plan for 2030. 

He’ll soon get a lot of input. This month, planners from Portland will begin meeting monthly with their counterparts from eight other small and midsize cities chosen by Dr. Martha Galvez and her team at NYU's Housing Solutions Lab. It’s their second year running the peer city network.

The cities are listed as follows:

  • Portland, Maine
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Evanston, Illinois
  • Missoula, Montana
  • Pasco, Washington
  • Pawtucket, Rhode Island
  • Rochester, New York
  • San Marcos, Texas

Their focus is to permit equitable, affordable housing.

"Policy attention tends to go to the biggest cities, but we know that smaller cities have the same problems and have the same energy to try to solve them," Galvez told NEWS CENTER Maine.

"We hope that they come and they share what they’re working on and are forthcoming about the challenges and what didn’t work," Galvez continued. "A lot of what helps other cities to hear what they tried and what didn’t work."

"This is an opportunity for everyone to kind of get a sense for how a city such as ours is grappling with this," Grooms said.

No money will change hands -- only data and ideas.

As Grooms tries to create places where Mainers can still afford to live, he hopes many hands will make light work.

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