Maine's 'housing first' program to launch with budget bill passage
The passage of the supplemental budget also means Maine will soon see the launch of a statewide "Housing First" program. Advocates say the model, which funds housing for the chronically homeless, is a crucial step toward helping unhoused people bring more stability to their lives.
The program will get between $7 million and $8 million in funding each year from half of the state's real estate transfer tax revenues. Housing first properties would have on-site social service workers dedicated to residents.
Laura Mitchell, the executive director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, says the program could be immediately useful in Maine's biggest cities where homelessness is most concentrated. But its benefits are statewide.
"I think there's a definite need in some of our urban core centers to provide housing for those who have been chronically homeless for an extended period of time in those places," she said. "But it's going to be important to provide smaller site based services, or scattered site throughout the state."
Maine State Housing Authority Director Daniel Brennan says it may be a few years before housing first properties come online. And the real estate transfer tax money won't begin to flow to the program until 2025, according to the budget bill's language. But he said the establishment of the program will give developers more confidence to pursue those projects, knowing there is state money to back it up.