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Energy-efficient, affordable housing could be coming to Maine

LD 1656, An Act To Build Energy-efficient Affordable Housing could provide housing, add jobs and help the environment, advocates say

AUGUSTA, Maine — It's estimated that Maine needs about 20,000 more affordable housing units, and the housing the state does have accounts for about 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

A bill that was just passed by Maine lawmakers would not only provide more affordable housing but add jobs to Maine's economy all while being environmentally cautious. It's called An Act to Build Energy-efficient affordable housing, and it's now up to the Legislature's appropriation committee to the money to pay for the $25 million for the first year and $75 million for the second.

Representative Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth said that $100 million is just the start.

"With a $100 million investment, leveraging financial resources as well. We're looking at about 1,400 units total meanwhile, we need to build 20,000 units," she said.

Representative Millett is sponsoring this bill for people like Gina Morin of Auburn, who about five years ago was homeless herself.

"I found myself living in my car for 10 days and then I rented a hotel room where I lived for the next four and a half years," Morin said.

Jim Devine of Portland has a similar story. He said he has struggled with homelessness and substance use disorder and added finding an affordable place to live keeps getting harder, especially during the pandemic when things like libraries and soup kitchens have been closed to the public.

"It's had a very drastic impact on the homeless community, all the places they used to go to is no longer available for them," he said.

Advocates at Maine People's Alliance said while 1,400 affordable housing units only begins to meet the need here in Maine. They're hoping to get this funding and get started.

"It's really exciting to be talking about making this kind of investment," Cate Blackford, Maine People's Alliance Director said.

This $100 million investment will be coming from a number of places including private funding, the state, and federal covid relief funding. The appropriations committee is expected to meet and discuss this by the end of the month.

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