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Affordable housing advocates urge Legislature to help

Affordable housing advocates want to use the state's $1.3 billion budget surplus to find solutions.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Apartmentlist.com states the average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Portland is $1,356. The latest U.S. Census lists the city's average income at $33,470.

In Bangor, rent averages $930 with an average income of $25,465. That means people in both cities are spending 50% of their income on rent.

"I wish there was just a magic wand that I could wave and we could just fix affordable housing and make sure there's enough, but it's a really complex issue," Cate Blackford with the Maine People's Alliance said.

People in Maine are in some cases spending 60% of their income on rent, she said, which is preventing them from being able to save for a home of their own. But it's not just rentals that are expensive.

"There's challenges on both sides of that market," said Jeff Levine with the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. "On the homeownership side there just isn't much inventory and the prices are much higher than what most Mainers can afford."

Levine said there is some hope as the Legislature works to solve this problem.

"This current legislature has been one of the most proactive in housing in quite some time," he said.

That includes LD 2003, which aims to increase housing opportunities by studying zoning and land restrictions.

"It would create a statewide policy in terms of how communities could regulate housing production," Levine said.

While there is work being done on the affordable housing front, many hope  the emergency housing relief funds in the state's supplemental budget will be used to create more affordable housing across the state.

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