The Yarmouth Town Council unanimously voted to establish an Affordable Housing Committee at its Dec. 17 meeting.

YARMOUTH — The Town Council is exploring a path to more economic diversity by addressing the quantity, availability and affordability of local housing.

To that end, residents are still being sought to serve on the newly created Affordable Housing Committee. The committee will consist of seven members who will each serve a three-year term. According to Councilor Meghan Casey, there have been a number of applicants for the committee already, but she still encourages people to apply on the town website.

“We are looking for people with expertise in affordable housing, real estate, law, social justice, and finance, particularly people who have worked on housing finance,” Casey said in an email to The Forecaster. “We also are looking for people whose lived experience can inform the committee about the challenge of finding housing in town.”

Casey said the first task of the committee will be studying local housing data and compare it to the Greater Portland area, giving context to the terms “affordable” and “workforce.” The findings and recommendations will be passed along to the town council, which has given the committee six months to complete the initial process.

The Affordable Housing Committee, according to an announcement on the town website, defines affordability as households where monthly housing costs do not exceed 30% of a household’s income. The committee will first establish the parameter for affordable housing for households with an annual income between 50% and 80% of the median family income for the Greater Portland region, which is $100,900, according to the Greater Portland Council of Governments. According to the Census, the median household income in Yarmouth in 2019 was $89,984, compared to $57,918 in the state. In Maine, the average home has 2.32 people, similar to Yarmouth, with 2.45 people per household.

According to a 2016 Market Analysis and Action Plan contracted by the town, median monthly housing costs for Yarmouth residents with mortgages is $1,890, 41% higher than the state average. The median gross rent in Yarmouth is $1,140, which almost 50% of renters across the state would be unable to afford.

“The council understands that a healthy town has a diversity of housing and citizens and that it is best for the town if housing is available for rates that are affordable for the workforce of Cumberland County,” said Casey, who proposed forming the committee in fall 2020.

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