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Housing affordability is a major problem in Maine and one that will only get worse unless the state formulates a more comprehensive response to the housing needs of Maine people. We’re pleased that legislators made incremental progress this session toward developing statewide solutions for housing and rejected a proposal that would have increased homelessness.

General Assistance Will Continue to Fill the Void Where Housing Programs Fall Short: General Assistance (GA) has become a de facto housing program as many people in Maine are unable to afford housing and housing programs are woefully inadequate. The proposed budget would have cut the GA program in half, altering the funding formula so that service center cities would have seen a significant loss in reimbursement, which would have forced substantial cuts to the program. Fortunately, the Legislature settled on a compromise that altered the reimbursement formula so that all municipalities will now receive seventy percent reimbursement from the state. Preserving the GA program equates to preserving housing for Mainers who would otherwise be homeless.

New Affordable Housing Working Group: MEJP supported LD 1188,An Act To Implement a Rental Assistance Program for Low-income Households and Individuals, which would have created a new state housing voucher program to serve as a bridge for people waiting on a waitlist for the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (aka Section 8). To learn more about what this bill would have done, see our fact sheet from earlier this year. In the end, this bill did not pass, but legislators heard the collective message from advocates for affordable housing that something needs to be done. They created a new Affordable Housing Working Group, which will be convened by the Maine State Housing Authority. A diverse group of stakeholders will be charged with studying the problem of housing affordability in Maine and formulating recommendations to the Legislature. MEJP looks forward to the important and necessary work that this group will undertake.

New Funding for Shelters: MEJP was pleased to be part of an effort that secured desperately needed funds for homeless shelters in Maine. Shelter directors from around the state advocated successfully for more than $2 million in new funds. This means that Maine’s shelters will turn fewer people away and that the state has a stronger safety net for people who fall on hard times.

(August 2015)