Providing safe, affordable, energy-efficient homes for Bath residents is far more than simply meeting some arbitrary quota. It is part of being a caring, inclusive community. Over the coming year, Bath Housing will be working with regional partners to promote local policies that support diverse housing opportunities.

Access to stable housing is at the core of the health and wellness of families and promotes positive outcomes that reverberate throughout the community. But there are those who claim that affordable housing is somehow a burden on a community and that every community should bear the same burden. There is another argument to be made.

In Bath, our strength is in the diversity of our community. Shop clerks, BIW workers, professionals, tradespeople, elders, young families, new residents, retirees, and our friends and neighbors are our community. Some are wealthy, some middle class, and some live on a fixed income. Every one of them is deserving of a safe and affordable home, and every one of them contributes to a thriving and diverse community.

Consider this:

· A range of housing options is an asset. We all benefit from having a choice of what kind of housing to live in and safe, comfortable living options at a range of price points.

· The amount and type of housing in a community is based on what its residents need, not on what other communities have. Bath residents are best served by having access to housing they can afford without leaving town, not some arbitrary “fair share.” With the current constrained supply, we have seen escalating rents and home prices in the region, making it even harder to meet current demand.

· The housing market and local businesses are closely linked. For downtown Bath and its stores and businesses to succeed, we need local housing options for employees as well as customers. This reduces expensive commutes and increases the vitality of our downtown.

· There are many kinds of housing. The “fair share” argument assumes any subsidized housing is the same. In reality, federal housing subsidies serve everyone from upper- and middle-income homeowners through the mortgage interest tax deduction, to our workforce through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, to very low income elderly and disabled residents through income-based rent programs.

· New multi-family housing supported by federal programs is often the best looking and most energy-efficient housing on the block, as it is strictly regulated in terms of design quality, energy efficiency, and management practices to ensure that these homes fit in and build the sense of community.

For those who want to stay in their community as they age, there should be places to live that are accessible, manageable, and affordable.

Similarly, those who want to return to their hometown or relocate to Bath should have an option to do so even if they cannot afford to buy a single-family home. Providing a range of housing options will improve our community.

At Bath Housing, our vision is that this region is vibrant, resilient, and inclusive. We want everyone who works here, grew up here, who wants to stay or relocate here to have a reasonable opportunity to live in Bath.

We care about our neighbors, relatives, and friends – new and old alike. We want them to have the opportunity to thrive in Bath.

To download a copy of Bath Housing’s recent study, Housing Market Summary, Vision & Best Practices: Recommendations for Policy Development, go to bathhousing.org/news/bath-housing-releases-housing-vision/.

Debora Keller is the executive director of Bath Housing and a Bath resident.

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