AUGUSTA — Maine needs an estimated 10,000 units of affordable senior housing now, and that need is expected to grow to more than 15,000 in less than a decade if lawmakers, property owners and builders fail to take action.

That’s the gist of a new report released Wednesday by the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition to promote a $65 million senior housing bond proposal from House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick.

Eves and Sen. David Burns, R-Whiting, joined coalition members at the former Cony High School, a historic, centrally located building that’s being converted into 48 units of affordable senior housing.

“This is what we need now for our seniors,” Eves said. “This is a win for everybody and we’re doing it right.”

Eves’ proposed senior housing bill is part of his KeepME Home initiative to help seniors live independently in their homes and communities. The $65 million bond would help create 1,000 units of energy-efficient, affordable housing for seniors across the state.

Eves said projects like Cony Flatiron Senior Residences also create much-needed construction jobs and boost the state’s economy. The $8.7 million project is being developed by the nonprofit Housing Initiatives of New England Corp. in Portland. Apartments will rent for $780 to $950 per month.

“These projects will inject thousands of dollars into the local community while they are under construction,” said Tim Ouellette, owner of CPM Constructors in Freeport and president of Associated General Contractors of Maine. “When our industry is building, Maine is moving.”

Both Burns and Eves said the senior housing bill is attracting bipartisan support and noted that the banging of hammers and whining of saws in the former high school sound like progress.

“This is one subject I’m finding a lot of support for across the aisle,” said Burns. “Aging in place is important to our seniors.”

Burns, who is co-chairman of the Legislature’s bipartisan Aging Caucus, represents Washington County, where 35 percent of the population is age 65 or older, 41 percent of seniors are low-income and 13 percent are living in poverty, he said.

With a rapidly growing senior population and aging housing stock, many older Mainers are living in homes that exceed or don’t meet their needs and are too expensive or difficult to maintain. As a result, many seniors are isolated from friends and loved ones, subject to debilitating falls and illnesses, and more likely to wind up in assisted living facilities or nursing homes.

Maine lacked nearly 9,000 units of affordable rental housing for low-income older Mainers in 2012, according to the coalition’s study by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Because Maine’s senior population is growing, that shortfall is expected to increase to more than 15,000 units by 2022 if there’s no increase in affordable rental stock.

“The research released today shows that there is a fundamental mismatch between Maine’s housing supply and our seniors’ housing needs,” said coalition Director Greg Payne. “The KeepME Home bond initiative would address that mismatch while also creating thousands of sorely needed, good-paying jobs in the construction sector.”

Kelley Bouchard can be reached at 791-6328 or at:

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