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Brunswick becomes one of few Maine municipalities to require affordable units in new construction

Maine St. in Brunswick in June 2023.
Brian Bechard
/
Maine Public
Maine St. in Brunswick in June 2023.

Brunswick this week became one of the few municipalities to place affordability requirements around housing projects. Housing advocates are hoping it's a strategy that may become more common.

The town council's unanimous vote on Tuesday will require any new rental builds with 15 or more units to set aside 15% for affordable housing. It would have to be affordable to people earning up to 80% of the area's median income, or about $1,300 for a one bedroom.

Developers could also get a density bonus if they build more units affordably priced for people earning up to 120% of the area's median income.

Laura Mitchell, the policy director for the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, said she hopes more towns take proactive measures to require affordable units. She says even a small number of affordable spaces helps when Maine is short an estimated 25,000 housing units.

"I think you know, whether it's 10% or 15%, anything right now is going to have a measurable impact in our state if communities are really talking about this," she said.

Portland has a similar ordinance requiring new builds of 10 units or more have 25% of spaces set aside for affordable housing. However, developers can pay a fee in lieu of adhering to that rule instead that is used to support affordable housing.

The Brunswick ordinance replaces an emergency moratorium in the town that limited reviews of developments unless they had a certain amount of affordable units included. The moratorium expires July 17.

Reporter Caitlin Andrews came to Maine Public in 2023 after nearly eight years in print journalism. She hails from New Hampshire originally.