Cape Elizabeth has a larger senior and smaller age 25-44 population than the county, state and nation. Contributed / Camoin Associates

Fewer younger people are living in Cape Elizabeth than a decade ago, a possible symptom of a lack of affordable housing, according to a consultant’s report.

Residents ages 25-44 make up just 15% of the town’s population. In comparison, people ages 25-44 make up 24% of the population in Cumberland County.

“Housing affordability plays a role in delaying the age at which families with children can afford to move into the community,”  Tom Dworetsky, director of research at Camoin Associates, told the Town Council Monday. “That’s probably why we’re seeing more older children and fewer younger children.”

Cape Elizabeth has a declining younger and increasingly older population. Contributed / Camoin Associates

Camoin Associates has been hired by the town to conduct a three-part study on housing needs in Cape Elizabeth. It has completed the first part, an analysis of the current housing situation.

The 25 to 59-year-old population in the town of 9,401 has fallen 7.8% since 2010, and the under-18 population has dropped 14% from 2000 to 2020, according to the Camoin report. School enrollment has declined by 11.3% over the past nine school years. There has been a decrease of nearly 400 children ages 5-14 since 2010 while the 15-19-year old population has increased by just 63.

The decline in young adults and children results in an uptick in seniors. The report estimates that 34% of Cape Elizabeth residents are 60 years or older, compared to 24% in 2010. Cumberland County’s over-60 population has grown from 20% to 27% in that span.


The consultants also found that 750, or 22%, of Cape Elizabeth households are considered “housing cost-burdened,” with 65% of cost-burdened households earning below $50,000 annually.

“’Cost-burdened’ is defined as a household that spends more than 30% of its income on housing costs,” Dworetsky said. “For an owner-occupied house, those costs include mortgage payments, real estate taxes, home-owners insurance, utilities … and condo fees, if applicable.”

Cost-burdened households in Cape Elizabeth are disproportionately seniors or people making less than $50,000 annually. Contributed / Camoin Associates

Half of the 750 cost-burdened households in town are senior households, with 29% of all senior households considered to be cost-burdened.

“It is common for seniors to be disproportionately cost-burdened in any community,” Dworetsky said. “They have less income, they might not have high assets.”

In Cumberland County, 29% of all households are considered to be cost-burned, according to the report, while 68% of households making less than $50,000 annually are considered to be cost-burdened. Over 30% of households with residents 65-or-older are cost-burdened county-wide.

Home prices are also keeping young families out of Cape Elizabeth.


Between 2011 and 2021, the median non-oceanfront single-family home sale nearly doubled from $336,250 to $695,000, according to the report.

The median income in Cape Elizabeth households is $127,363, more than double the state’s median of under $60,000 and Cumberland County’s median of just over $76,000. Roughly 63% of Cape Elizabeth households have an income of $100,000 or more, according to the report, compared to 38% in Cumberland County.

Diversifying the town’s housing stock could lead to an increase in younger families, according to Dan Stevens, director of real estate development services at Camoin.

“The missing middle, in terms of the demographic … you hear that with housing types as well,” he said. “Things like townhouses, duplexes; those kinds of housing options that are really in demand.”

The town added 122 homes between 2010 and 2022, a growth of 3.4%, compared to a 5.8% increase in population from 9,015 in 2010 to 9,535 in 2020.

During that time, some nearby communities have increased their housing stock at more than four times that rate. Scarborough had a 20.6% increase, Cumberland 19.1% and Falmouth 13.7%. The number of new households in those three towns all exceeded population increases from 2010 to 2020. Scarborough’s population grew by 17%, Cumberland’s by 17.3%, and Falmouth’s by 11.3% during that time.


The consultants also said zoning in town could pose obstacles to new housing.  Six of Cape Elizabeth’s seven zoning districts permit single-family housing while multifamily housing is only permitted in two districts. Many have conditions such as requiring nonresidential uses in multifamily buildings, according to the report.

“With those kinds of low-density requirements, and those restrictions, that’s a pretty significant barrier for multifamily housing and affordable and workforce housing development in the community,” Stevens said.

The council was generally pleased with the report.

“What I loved about this report, and what I loved about these findings, is that it starts to guide you into this direction of where is it we need to focus our attention, Councilor Penny Jordan said. “Where are we going to put our priorities?”

The council and consultants will meet on June 27 at 7 p.m. to set affordable housing creation goals, including the number of affordable housing homes to create over the next 10 years.

Comments are not available on this story.