Maine Legislature Takes a Step to Advance Affordable Housing in Maine

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

In our February 2016 update, we told you about the Maine Affordable Housing Working Group, and about a bill, LD 1607, that included recommendations made by that group. We're happy to report that LD 1607 passed the Legislature with strong bipartisan support and is now law!

The new law directs the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) and the regional housing authorities around the state to create one universal application and waitlist for Section 8 regardless of where people live in the state. We believe that this will streamline the process for applicants, reduce duplication among the various waiting lists that currently exist, and make it easier to fill available housing openings more quickly.

Importantly, the law also directs MSHA to examine options for increasing affordable housing for households with ‘extremely low incomes’ and for establishing a rental assistance pilot program for households at risk of homelessness. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines 'extremely low income' households as those with incomes that are 30% or less than the area median income. That’s roughly $15,000 annual income for a family of 3. More than 75,000 Maine households fit that description and more than 42,000 of them are renters.

While the law only requires MSHA to "examine options" to increase affordable housing, we feel that the passage of this law is an important first step to ensuring that fewer people in Maine will have to struggle to maintain safe and affordable housing. The Legislature's strong support for passage of the bill signals that policymakers recognize that people with low income indeed face a housing crisis and shows that there is will to solving it. It will be our job, working with many others, to strengthen that will in the coming months and years.