The Brunswick and Topsham Housing Authority offices, located at 12 Stone St. in Brunswick. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The Brunswick Housing Authority plans to convert public housing to tenant-based housing, a move that will help the organization regain local control and increase funding by more than $500,000, according to Executive Director John Hodge. 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently redefined a “small public authority” as one with 250 or fewer public housing units; a large jump from the previous allotment of 50. Brunswick Housing Authority has 191 public housing units, qualifying it to apply for the Streamlined Voluntary Conversion program.

According to Hodge, the federal programs have been “chronically underfunded” for years, and the “public housing program dollars were not keeping up with expenses.” 

By converting to Section 8, Hodge said in a letter to the council, there will be an increase in revenue, a much needed boost at a time when the housing authority is using 102% of its funding (that extra 2% comes from reserves).

“Many people in the community understand we don’t have enough rental housing,” Hodge said in an earlier interview, “it’s just very expensive.”

More funding will not only help them better maintain the units they already have, but also could open more opportunities to create more low-income housing in the future. 


“Currently, we receive an operating subsidy and capital funding through an annual appropriation in addition to the rents we collect from tenants which amounts to 30% of their gross income,” he said, but “new rents will be based on the payment standards used for our Housing Choice Voucher program which … provides greater revenue than the current Public Housing Program.” 

The 2020 fair market rent in Cumberland County is $1,059 for a two-bedroom apartment, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The “payment standard” is $1,176 for a two-bedroom apartment, including utilities. 

Brunswick Housing sets its payment standard as high as possible, Hodge said, but it’s still not enough to cover the cost of most housing, with most available two-bedroom apartments going for anywhere from $1200 to $1600. 

In fiscal year 2020, the housing authority projects its total revenue will be $1.7 million. If they convert the housing to Section 8, they project the revenue will be $2.23 million.

He and others are hoping that with the new designation the federal programming will be self-sufficient and the housing authority will not have to use local funding to “prop up the federal programming.”

“We hope if the programs get funding, the resources we have can go back to developing more housing,” he said.


Land and construction costs are both high right now. “There’s not enough public money to help public developers build housing and (there’s) not enough incentive for private developers to be able to build housing and turn a reasonable profit,” Hodge said in the fall.

Programs like the low-income housing tax credit program, which allows developers to build at a lower cost if a certain number of units are reserved for affordable housing are helpful, but Hodge said those programs add maybe 250 units across the state every year — not even close to the 10,000 he estimated are needed. 

“It’s a trickle when we need the floodgates to be open,” Hodge said at the time.  

If the existing units are converted to Section 8, Hodge said, HUD will release the properties from a “Declaration of Trust,” allowing the Brunswick Housing Authority to access private funding, attach a mortgage to the building and make changes without having to consult HUD first.

Essentially, the housing authority would be treated as any other landlord. The units will continue to be owned by the Brunswick Housing Authority and will still serve low-income residents.  

“Brunswick, as with many communities across this nation, is lacking in decent, affordable housing,” Council Chairman John Perreault wrote in a draft letter to HUD, and “therefore, we applaud the Housing Authority’s efforts to preserve these as affordable units.” 


Residents will be issued a Tenant Protection Voucher and will be able to stay in their existing units or choose to use their vouchers to relocate. 

“Many will stay because it is a tight rental market,” he said. 

On average, only 50% of the housing authority’s vouchers result in permanent housing, despite more than 17,000 Mainers on a waiting list that for some, can last years. 

For those who do choose to stay, “It should impact them positively in that more resources would be available to maintain and improve the properties,” Hodge said. 

With those resources, the housing authority will have a “better chance of making sure these units remain viable for another 50 years,” he said, and will allow them to serve not only the residents currently living in the units, but also the people who may live there in the future. 

“Our mission is to provide not just housing, but decent housing,” he said. 

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