South Portland city councilors are working with seven other communities to increase affordable housing in their respective cities by 2025. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — Officials are contemplating increasing the city’s lower- and middle-income housing stock by 10% within six years.

According to the Greater Portland Council of Governments, the number and location of households in the region struggling with the cost of housing is rising, with the burden falling heavily on the senior population. Travel between home and work has also increased, generating more expense to commuting households.

“There are many factors to why it’s an issue, and we should recognize that population growth is needed for economic stability,” said City Councilor Susan Henderson at a Sept. 24 workshop. “We’re going to lose workforce, there will be less births and less younger people coming in … we’re not going to be able to maintain our status quo economically unless we address that.”

“Part of the equation is lack of a living wage,” said Councilor April Caricchio. “Part of addressing this problem is to remember people are not making the income to keep pace with all the other rising costs of living.”

South Portland is part of the Metro Regional Coalition that encompasses six other Portland-area communities. Coalition communities voted in June to support having each of their governing bodies adopt a resolution to expand the number of housing units that are affordable to lower- and middle-income households by 10% by no later than 2025.

South Portland will vote whether to approve such a resolution on Oct. 29.

In the future, City Manager Scott Morelli said the communities will likely report their progress at an annual meeting until 2025, when they are supposed to reach their 10% goal.

Morelli said there are no penalties if South Portland fails to reach its goal.

Councilors have already created an affordable housing trust fund to be overseen by the affordable housing committee, according to Morelli.

He also said the South Portland Housing Authority and Avesta Housing were provided tax breaks of 75 percent for 30 years as they continue work on projects for affordable housing on Westbrook Street and Main Street.

“Housing demand exceeds what the city can deliver,” Henderson said. “So by increasing housing options, we’re also increasing job choices too. There’s a lot of good things about this initiative.”

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