To add more affordable housing in Cape Elizabeth, the town should allow higher density, provide incentives to developers, streamline the approval process and partner with neighboring municipalities and housing nonprofits, according to its consultants.

They also told the Town Council at the third and final housing diversity workshop Wednesday that residents’ divided opinion on affordable housing is an impediment to the town’s diversification goals.

Camoin Associates recently completed a housing study for the town that recommends a “moderate” goal of building 200 affordable units by 2032 and an “ambitious” goal of 450 units. From 2010 to 2020, two affordable housing units were built in Cape Elizabeth.

“Now we’re at the final part of the study where we’re putting forth strategy recommendations on how to achieve the goals that the town may wish to settle on,” said Tom Dworetsky, director of research at Camoin. “The town, the citizen committee, will be able to consider and be able to use this whole report as a reference going forward.”

Impediments to creating affordable housing in town include zoning ordinances that restrict high-density development, the high cost of land and divided public opinion.

“The public has a wide range of views on this topic from very much in support of, to completely against, and everything in between,” Dworetsky said. “Relatedly, community perception: the way that potential housing developers see Cape Elizabeth, based on what’s happened to past proposals, gives them pause about potentially trying to do a project in the town again.”


The Town Council passed zoning amendments in October 2021 that would have permitted an affordable housing development, Dunham Court, in the town center. After a citizen petition forced a referendum to overturn those amendments, the developers pulled the plug on the project. The upcoming referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot was a major driver for the housing diversity study and the creation of a citizen-driven housing diversity committee.

Camoin recommends changing zoning to allow more high-density developments,  reducing permitting and impact fees and streamlining the approval process for affordable housing. They also suggest developing partnerships with regional housing nonprofit organizations, collaborating with neighboring municipalities and establishing a housing trust fund.

“Building affordable housing doesn’t mean sacrificing community character,” Dworetsky said. “Good design can really go a long way to make sure denser housing can still blend in and contribute to the appearance of the surrounding neighborhood, the community as a whole.”

Councilors were pleased with the report.

“This is exactly the work I wanted to see in order to pass it along to our housing diversity committee,” Councilor Penny Jordan said. “I look at the work that’s done here as a huge step forward.”

The council will now begin working with the housing diversity committee on specific affordable housing creation goals and strategies.

Comments are not available on this story.