The Boy Who Cried Wolf. We all know the moral of the story: Once you lie,people stop believing you. Unfortunately, Maine has its own version of Aesop’s fable: State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin’s distorted cries about MaineHousing. Nearly daily, Mr. Poliquin frantically espouses distortions and hysteria about affordable housing projects in Maine.

It’s unclear why, with a job as important as state treasurer, Mr. Poliquin’s myopic focus on this one issue dominates his time. Mr. Poliquin has had the stage long enough.

It’s time that facts and informed debate lead the discussion-not partisan hackery.

THE PORTLAND PROJECT

Let’s set the record straight.

MaineHousing never considered funding Elm Terrace at the level Poliquin claims.

Once the developer ran into problems resulting in a 30 percent increase in costs, MaineHousing put on the brakes and is now working with the developer to lower costs.

Before smearing MaineHousing, Poliquin should represent, with accuracy, the existing vetting process at MaineHousing.

Frankly, this is an important project for Portland and should not be dismissed without merit.

HISTORIC BUILDING REDEVELOPMENT

We are fortunate enough to live in a region of the country where there’s history to the towns and cities in which we live.

Redevelopment of historic buildings serves multiple purposes — and each purpose has been and continues to be fully supported by state and federal policies.

To use one of Mr. Poliquin’s examples, Gilman Place in Waterville was, for many years, an empty building in a great neighborhood.

Despite its vacancy being a major concern to city residents and officials alike, there were three failed attempts at redeveloping the site.

Once MaineHousing stepped in, the building was successfully redeveloped and is now the site of 35 affordable housing units — a project recently and publicly praised by Gov. (and former Waterville mayor) Paul LePage.

And it’s not just a do-good project.

There were positive financial implications as a result of Gilman Place as well.

Because MaineHousing redeveloped this historic building, they were able to leverage state money two and half times its investment.

In other words, for every dollar of state investment, Maine received $2.50 in outside dollars.

That’s real money that helped grow our local economy by paying local businesses, contractors and workers.

In fact, more than 280 Maine people worked on Gilman Place.

‘PER UNIT’ COST COMPARISON

Poliquin’s comparison of the per unit cost of a multi-family apartment building to a single-family residential home might make for good sound bites but not good analysis.

And, worse, it belies a lack of understanding of development projects and tax credits, in particular.

Often, multi-family housing construction requires many items not included in a single-family construction, such as elevators, parking lots and sprinkler systems.

There’s also the necessity to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Can affordable housing be developed for a lower cost?

The short answer is, yes. Anyone remember Cabrini-Green in Chicago?

For decades, cities around this country have worked hard to reverse the policies where we once thought that creating cheap, mass public housing was the answer.

And what we found was that it begat neglect, poverty and violence.

Doing it on the cheap, in the long run, costs everyone.

THE REAL CONVERSATION

There’s certainly room to have a real conversation here.

Perhaps it’s one about whether or not it should be a priority to save beautiful, time-tested, historic buildings.

If so, let’s talk about “that.”

Perhaps we should talk about whether or not Maine should accept federal money — money paid from taxes from “away” — to leverage taxpayer investment.

If so, let’s talk about “that.”

Perhaps we should talk about what kind of safety and quality standards affordable housing developments should follow.

If so, let’s talk about “that.”

Perhaps as Mr. Poliquin suggests we should be more concerned with how we can help more Maine families.

If so, let’s talk about “that.”

These are all important questions to ask and discussions to be had. But, unfortunately, Mr. Poliquin isn’t listening to the facts.

Instead he’s on a frenzied quest for his latest political agenda.

Joseph Brannigan of Portland, a Democrat, is state senator for District 9. Stephen Lovejoy of Portland is Democratic state representative for District 115.