The housing market, like all markets, is subject to the law of supply and demand. For a long time, overregulation has distorted the housing market.

It used to be that a hardworking person of modest means would notice a demand for housing and then construct a small multifamily property to meet that demand, and perhaps live in it himself or herself. Overly strict zoning ordinances put an end to that, and now our society has become dependent on large corporations to supply most housing. They must learn to work within the system and often build large developments – many subsidized by tax dollars – to make the numbers work.

There is pending legislation in Augusta that will allow regular, hardworking people to build up to four units of housing on their property, like a duplex on an empty lot or an in-law apartment in a backyard or over a garage. Of course, these additional units are subject to common-sense local regulations to preserve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. It also allows the supply of housing to rise to meet demand without taxpayer dollars, lowering the cost of housing.

Town and city planners contributed immensely to the final bill, which has the support of the Maine Association of Planners. The bill takes into account all types of communities, sewer and septic systems, resource protection and land use goals – and it supports local goals like growing density and avoiding sprawl. L.D. 2003 honors local comprehensive plans by incentivizing housing where communities already allow homes to be built and allowing triplexes and fourplexes where towns have designated growth areas or existing connections to public water and wastewater systems.

L.D. 2003 has Republican support because it includes a free-market solution to the housing shortage that honors property rights. L.D. 2003 has support from Democrats who believe the status quo of zoning is overly burdensome and originated in an era when decision makers purposely excluded multifamily housing from certain parts of towns.

L.D. 2003 also has the support of a diverse and unlikely coalition, which includes the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Maine Equal Justice, the Maine People’s Alliance, AARP, the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition and many more.

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Collectively, we agree that this bill will increase the availability of all different kinds of housing, especially attainable, more energy-efficient housing options like accessory dwelling units, helping more Mainers to be economically independent and successful.

It’s not just large employers who tell us housing is a barrier to a strong workforce. Many communities are struggling to fill public safety and teacher positions because of the lack of housing options.

We recognize Maine’s housing supply has not kept up with demand at any price point and that affordable housing is needed just as much as middle-income housing and larger single-family homes. This bill would ensure that the affordable housing that our state invests in stays affordable for 30 years at minimum, so we’re holding developers accountable to the needs of Mainers.

This bill generated a lot of important policy discussions that engaged numerous stakeholders. It is not often that we have the opportunity to address the priorities of such a diverse group. The end result is a better bill that can satisfy those who advocate for affordable housing and those who support private property rights. We need to pass L.D. 2003.

 


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