In this time of gratitude, I am thankful to live in the Town of Scarborough. As a resident of 33 years, I have seen many changes – some good, some not so great, but all of them combining to make our town a popular place in which to live. Regretfully, this has created a barrier to living here for some who are coming up behind us – our children, grandchildren, and those who work in solidly working class jobs.

In October 2021, the Maine Realtors released statistics that showed that the average sold price of a residential property in Scarborough was $591,722. That’s right, over half a million dollars to buy a home in Scarborough. Under most general financing guidelines, no more than 30% of a family’s income should go towards a mortgage – or rent. This means that a family of four requires approximately $173,000 in income in order to buy the average Scarborough house. Rentals are equally expensive, with the average 3-bedroom house or apartment rental running at $1,900 per month. Do the math. What income supports $24,000 a year as 30% of income? You see where I am heading.

As a town, we have done a good job of supporting the construction of housing for those earning less than 80% of the HUD Portland area average income ($80,790 for a family of four).

In fact, a good number of units for senior citizens are geared towards 60% or less of that number. What we are missing is the opportunity to encourage construction of living units for those in the gap— workforce housing. These are families of four earning between $80,720 and $121,080 per year. Multiply those numbers by three. The house value these folks can afford is approximately $240,000 to $363,000. As a Realtor, I can tell you there is little to nothing available in that range in Scarborough. It is time to change that.

Thankfully, the State Legislature is recognizing the issues around housing in Maine. I testified before a special commission that is working on solutions to the problem surrounding builders developing buildings that are attainable price wise to working Mainers. Also, the Scarborough Housing Alliance is coalescing around defining and pinpointing solutions to the dilemma facing our town— not enough housing or rental stock that can be afforded by those who meet the Workforce Housing definition. The Town Council is aware of this issue and is exploring possibilities for making a dent in the issue. Regretfully, it will not be something that is solved overnight.

From my real estate experience vantage point, in this era of high demand and high building costs, it will take getting developers on board with solutions. Frankly, experience has shown that financial incentives work best. An example of a very successful program is the Low Income Senior Housing bonds that were issued through Maine State Housing. By incentivizing cooperation between municipalities and developers, monies have been made available to construct housing, even in these high cost years. There is no reason a similar program could not be instituted by the state that addresses the Workforce Income needs of many areas.

Likewise, being creative with density, minimum square footage requirements and other planning aspects could be explored. An example of this is the inclusion of 10 building permits that do NOT count towards the town limits if workforce priced housing is built in Scarborough.

The Town Council does not have all the answers right now. This is an evolving situation that will not suddenly disappear over time. We are hopeful that you will stay informed on this issue. I welcome any and all suggestions you might have. Thank you for taking the time to read about this problem in our town.

All numbers and statistics quoted are from the Maine Realtors Association or USHUD published statistics. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Scarborough Town Council.

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