BRUNSWICK — John Hodge, the director of the Brunswick Topsham Housing Authority, gives out between 20 and 30 subsidized housing vouchers every year. With a waiting list that is “well into the hundreds,” and can take up to 10 years to get to the front of, it’s just not cutting it.

But their situation is not unique. Every agency in the state has a waiting list, he said.

“It’s supply and demand,” he said of an increasingly tough local housing market. “Affordable housing is very much needed. … There’s greater need and far fewer properties.”

Hodge is one of three panelists scheduled to speak at Tuesday night’s Community Conversation, “The Local Landscape,” which will explore affordable housing in the region. This is the second of three events, the first of which focused on housing vulnerability and homelessness, exploring economics and poverty in Maine.

The goal is for each session to build on the other, said Sarah Brown, Adult Programs Director at Curtis Memorial Library,

Maine’s poverty rate hovers around 13 percent, according to Cullen Ryan, executive director of Community Housing of Maine, and is a “system that keeps people trapped there.” While homelessness is an increasing problem in the Midcoast — as Tedford Housing had to turn away 354 individuals and 228 families last year — this is not just a homelessness problem.


“Homelessness is an important part of the discussion but affordable and adequate housing impacts the whole spectrum of workers,” Brown said. “It’s becoming increasingly prevalent.”

In Brunswick, in order to afford the average two-bedroom apartment, a person would need to make $16 or $17 per hour, which is “well above minimum wage in Maine,” Hodge said. When the economy is doing well, the housing market gets even tougher and rents increase, he said.

As it is, the Brunswick Topsham Housing Authority is providing assistance to 700 households through 400 housing vouchers for private housing and 300 apartments that the organization owns. The vouchers, which are increasingly hard to come by, help people only have to pay 30 percent of their income on their rent. However, getting into the subsidized units or finding landlords to honor the voucher can be difficult, panelists said at the last session.

Jane Millett, a realtor and member of the Brunswick Town Council will talk about the current housing market and Kevin Bunker, one of the founders of Developers Collaborative, will discuss development in the area, Brown said.

It is important to have these forums with the community, Hodge said, because in his experience when the issue is raised and there is talk of bringing an affordable housing development into the area, there are a lot of concerns.

“There’s a lot of fear,” he said, about “the type of people” that will live there and whether crime rates will go up. Open, honest conversations are the best way to handle it, he said, adding, “it’s important to understand what the issues are.”

The meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday at Curtis Memorial Library. The third session, 6 p.m. Nov. 29 will explore “promising practices.”

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