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Business and Economy

New Commission to Look at How to Address Maine's Housing Shortage

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Jill Baker
/
Maine Public

A new legislative commission will explore how to address Maine's worsening shortage of affordable housing.

The commission, which held its first meeting on Thursday, will review the state's housing inventory, laws affecting local housing regulation, and offer recommendations to increase housing options. The committee will also consider the historical role of racism in zoning policies and practices.

Deborah Ibonwa, a policy and legal advocate with Maine Equal Justice, called on the commission to not only look at the state's lack of housing, but also to consider the number of Mainers forced to live in unsafe and dangerous conditions because that's all they can afford.

"Think about them," she says. "And for me, that is making the need for affordable housing all the more urgent."

Greg Payne, the director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, says that the commission's work comes at a crucial time, as new sources of state and federal funding are available to add more affordable housing. But he says Maine must tackle a patchwork of local zoning laws that restrict where that housing can be built.

"The question is whether we can create the conditions on the ground that will allow us to take full advantage of that opportunity, and ensure that Maine people can access the homes that they need to thrive," he says.

The committee will meet over the next few months, and must submit its recommendations to the legislature by November.