York County, as a whole, is unaffordable for working-class families, according to a new report.

The report, issued Thursday by the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, relies on homeownership and affordability data from the Maine Housing Authority, also known as MaineHousing. It found that while the median home price increased by about 35 percent from 2015 to 2019, the median income increased by only 13.5 percent. The median indicates that half of all findings were lower and half were higher.

The report was conducted in response to concerns voiced by towns in the area, according to Raegan Young, community planner and outreach specialist at the development commission. It relies entirely on housing data predating the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen area home prices skyrocket even further.

“We hold regular meetings with municipal staff: town managers, planners,” said Young. “We were hearing over and over again that there were concerns about affordable housing in the region, and they were looking to us to try and clarify the issue a little bit. And so, we know that housing is a really complex issue and our first sort of thought was to do a really basic, objective report of the existing data that MaineHousing produces.”

Young pointed out that while rising home prices have been a hallmark of the pandemic market, the report indicates a much more deeply rooted affordability problem.

“The only surprising thing (about the report) was that (affordability) did seem to be a pretty significant issue as of 2019, based on MaineHousing’s data, so pre-pandemic,” said Young. “We definitely know and have heard that housing prices have skyrocketed through the pandemic, but to see … the pre-pandemic numbers showing that it was already an increasing issue, I think was validating for a lot of the towns.”

According to Greg Gosselin of the Gosselin Realty Group, who sells homes in York County, more affordable homes in the area sell very quickly.

“When you’re out there and you’re working especially in what we would consider the affordable market in York County – which would be something under $500,000 these days, anything under that price range – you could have anywhere from 10 to 20, 30 people literally in line at an open house when the home hits the market,” Gosselin said.

Despite the skyrocketing home prices reflected in the report, Gosselin believes that the increasing unaffordability of housing options in the area will cause prices to level.

“There is starting to be a plateau in the market,” said Gosselin. “That could be the beginning of a shift. If that were the case, I don’t think you’re going to see anything like what we saw in 2008 with the market and the financial market crash, and the real estate market crash just prior to that. I think you’re going to just see a natural correction in the market because of the unaffordability of homes today.”

The report is just the first part of a thorough “state of the region” analysis of housing affordability in York County. Going forward, the development commission plans to conduct further studies examining the causes of this disparity by looking into confounding factors such as commuting and land-use patterns.


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