The Cumberland Town Council may form a task force to research how the housing crunch and out-of-reach prices for real estate are affecting both current and potential residents.

The task force is needed because local seniors can’t afford to age in place, families can’t afford to move into Cumberland and asylum-seekers and refugees are in need of shelter in southern Maine, said Council Chairperson Bob Vail.

Councilors and residents were split on the idea after Vail presented it May 9.

“I think it’s a very worthy cause and one that I would be pleased to be a part of if I was asked,” Councilor Mark Segrist said. “I don’t view this as an asylum or refugee issue; it’s an affordable housing issue. For some folks, affordable housing is the standard, for others, it’s the bare bones of needing a roof over their heads.”

The median price of a single-family home in Maine in March was about $394,000, 21% higher than March 2021 median price of $325,000, according to Maine Realtors. In Cumberland County, the median price increased more than 18% from $380,000 in March 2021 to $450,000.

The median cost for rent in Cumberland County as of 2020, the most recent data available from Maine Housing, was $1,888 for a two-bedroom apartment, compared to $1,096 in 2017.


Of 150 seniors surveyed in 2020 by the University of Southern Maine , the majority said “the financial burdens – mortgage payments, real estate taxes, cost of repairs – is causing many older people to give up their homes.”

Councilor Michael Edes said Portland officials encouraged more asylum-seekers and refugees to come than either the city or Southern Maine could handle, and now Portland wants neighboring towns “to bail them out.” Edes also said a limited area of available land and Cumberland’s distance from social services are roadblocks to the town addressing the housing crisis in Portland.

“The key here is that it’s (only) affordable the first time. Every single affordable project in Cumberland failed the concept. It was affordable the first time, then people started flipping the houses. These houses now are going for 4, 5, 600,000 dollars,” Edes said. “I don’t think Cumberland is structured to provide the type of support you’re thinking. I don’t think it’s a realistic goal for us.”

Resident Rick Allen said the council should not act on the housing issue until the town’s new comprehensive plan has been completed, adding there are other long-term issues that “are front and center to this community.”

“You’re years down the road until the first family moves in to anything,” Allen said. “You have time to find out what the values of the community are and have a thoughtful process.”

Holding off on any action would also give the town time to see what the state will do to address the affordable housing crisis, Allen said.


“There are no solutions at the state level currently,” Allen  said. “There are bills in the Legislature that are talking about these issues and I hope they can provide some guidance to us if we wait for them.”

Resident Teri Maloney-Kelly said even if Cumberland isn’t able to provide affordable housing or help those in need, the community should support the towns that are able to provide those services.

The task force is still in the conceptual phase and a workshop with more definitive goals will take place May 23. The council is expected to decide whether to form the advisory committee June 6.

If approved, members would include residents and one or two town officials, who would report back with recommendations to the council.  How often the committee would meet, data sources and the deadline to report to the town council will be worked out.

Comments are not available on this story.