I know there’s approximately eight dozen national crises going on right now (climate change, abortion rights being taken away, LGBTQ people being discriminated against, overpolicing, the coronavirus pandemic, the drug addiction pandemic and the never-ending Spider-Man reboots, to name a few), but I’d like to take some time to remind everyone that a housing crisis is still very much going on.

I think a big part of the problem is that houses are no longer primarily thought of as homes but as financial instruments. As investment pieces. We know that demand for houses is high, and the supply is still too low. And that a growing number of homes are being bought up by investors rather than buyers who actually want to live in them. According to Redfin, real estate investors bought 18.4 percent of homes sold in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2021. The exact numbers vary between locations, but based on the basic laws of physics, I can guarantee the overall percentage will only rise. The greater the mass, the greater its gravitational force. Money and capital beget more money and capital. Picture a snowball rolling down a hill, except in this case the snowball is made of cash. Investors buy houses, make money renting them out, use the profits to buy more houses, and on and on. Not included in the price is the amount of human stress and suffering felt when people can’t find a place to live within their budget.

Most of the homes being snatched up by the big fish are on the more affordable end of the homeownership spectrum (that is, under $300,000, which is still quite a price tag for this particular secretary). The investment companies then turn them into single-family rentals, where families can pay just as much in rent as they would for a mortgage but without any of the equity that mortgage payments purchase, or with the security under the law that comes with homeownership.

This may make me sound like a communist, but I think that we, as a society, need to decide if houses are for making money or if houses are for being homes. And I’m certainly not opposed to families using their homes as a nest egg to pay for their kids’ college or to retire on. But I am opposed to a small number of people getting very, very rich while average, working people are shut out of the security that home ownership can offer.

One of my best friends is living with my mom and has been for well over a year now. She was evicted from her last apartment when the landlord got divorced and needed a place to live. Now, despite the fact that she is quiet and clean (and has a quiet, clean, well-behaved cat), she can’t find a place of her own that’s affordable. And she’s luckier than a lot of people. “My mom’s house” isn’t a solution for Maine’s lack of affordable rental and buying options. It’s a solution for four people, max.

When it comes to buying a home, regular people, and especially first-time homebuyers who don’t have house equity to cash in on, cannot compete with corporations, LLCs and multi-property landlords. Corporate buyers can make cash offers on the spot over asking price while waiving the inspection (because they have the cash on hand to be able to fix surprise repairs).


My house has two bedrooms and is a little under 900 square feet. (The words you’re looking for are “cozy” and “energy efficient.”) My total mortgage payment (taxes and escrow included) is $980.58 per month. Currently, the cheapest two-bedroom apartment of roughly the same size in this area is going for $1,200 per month on Craigslist, and the price rises swiftly from there. Most of them don’t allow pets, either. That may not seem like a big deal compared to, you know, everything else going on in the world. But my dog is my best friend and my cat is my dog’s best friend, and if I had to give them up in order to find an affordable place to live, it would break my heart forever. I love my little home. The wood paneling matches my dog Janey’s coat, and the yard is full of bee-friendly wildflowers. I’ve worked hard for it, and I want everyone to have the same luck and opportunity I’ve had.

The lack of affordable housing in Maine and everywhere else has a lot of causes, which means it will need a lot of solutions. But evening out the playing field would be a good start. I think there should be a law forbidding investor purchasers (say, any incorporated company or individual who owns more than two pieces of real estate already) from making an offer on a house for 60 days. This would give regular buyers the chance to get their financing together and make an offer. I don’t know what the chances of a law like this happening are. Rich people would hate it. But the middle class, as my mother’s generation knew it, is disappearing almost as fast as an online listing for a two-bedroom home under $250,000. And chasmous housing inequality is right at the center of the rot.


Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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