The Brunswick Town Council voted unanimously Monday to approve the creation of a new 13-member Housing Committee tasked with finding ways to ease the town’s housing shortage.

“Brunswick is losing its economic diversity,” said Council Vice Chair Dan Ankeles. “We’ve been in a great, eclectic mix of people, and that’s part of a fundamental character of our community. I think making sure that that that doesn’t go away is important.”

The committee will research and propose development incentives designed to promote more housing construction at every price point.

Ankeles said the new group would act quickly in order to make use of the six-month emergency development moratorium the council passed in June.

Brunswick is one of several Maine towns, including Kittery, North Yarmouth and Freeport, grappling with development during an unprecedented period of housing demand and development.

Rapidly rising home and apartment costs, which have wreaked havoc on the federal voucher system many low-income residents depend on to secure affordable housing, have transformed housing from an often-overlooked issue to a local, state and national crisis, according to Carol O’Donnell, co-founder and chair of the Southern Midcoast Housing Collaborative.


“This need for affordable housing has been going on for a long time,” she said. “It’s just becoming more apparent.”

While developers in Brunswick have been building at a breakneck pace, according to a June report from Economic Development Director Sally Costello, they’ve focused exclusively on market rate housing.

And while fears that the Council’s emergency building moratorium would scare away developers have proven unfounded, according to Ankeles, the town must now set to work finding the right balance of incentives and requirements to attract developers who specialize in the tricky work of constructing affordable housing.

“It is frankly more difficult to get the financing needed to get affordable housing built,” said Christopher St. John of the Southern Midcoast Housing Collaborative. “It’s just more complicated to get those deals together.”

Affordable housing developers generally require several different funding sources, including government subsidies, in order to turn a profit on affordable housing projects, St. John said. Brunswick’s current policies, including density bonuses, have failed to make this type of development worthwhile for builders.

Still, St. John remained optimistic that by the end of the year the Housing Committee could put together some combination of policies, perhaps including land banking, local funding and inclusionary zoning, that could help turn the tide for affordable Brunswick housing.


“The job won’t be over,” he said. “The market forces which are driving the problem are so big, so overwhelming. But it’s a start.”

Three members of the Council will sit on the new committee, which will also include representatives from the town’s business and development communities, a local housing development organization and other groups.

Rather than interview with the town’s Appointments Committee, new Housing Committee members will be chosen by Ankeles and Board Chair James Mason. Mandatory monthly reports will also help keep the Housing Committee moving forward, Ankeles said.

“It’s the closest local government equivalent to real-time we can get to, given the circumstances,” said Ankeles, who added he hopes to have committee members installed within a week. “We have to commit to working quickly.”

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