More than 30 people gathered in Freeport Town Hall on Tuesday evening to for a public workshop to discuss town’s need for more affordable housing options. The hourlong event was just the first of several housing-related meetings and events set to take place in Freeport this week as town officials ramp up efforts to confront a housing shortage they say is harming the local economy.

“I think there was a recognition that (housing) is a complex problem but that we want to run and tackle it head-on,” Town Council Chair Dan Piltch said the morning after the workshop. “The vibe that we got coming out of last night is this is just the beginning.”

Tuesday’s workshop featured presentations from representatives of Freeport Housing Trust, the town’s Social & Racial Equity Committee and the Freeport Economic Development Corporation. Those speakers, along with as nearly a dozen community members who shared their thoughts and personal stories, agreed Freeport must take steps to improve its stock of affordable housing.

Like other communities in the area and across the nation, Freeport lacks an adequate supply of homes and rental units available to residents making less than the area median income, according to Matthew Peters, executive director of Freeport Housing Trust. While the vast majority of Freeport Housing Trust’s 183 units are rented below market rate, Peters said high demand for affordable units has created a lengthy waiting list for the town’s limited options.

“People are waiting anywhere between nine months and two years,” he said. “It’s a drain on everybody’s mental health, it’s a drain on our economy and certainly a drain on our community fabric.”

Citing the urgency of the issue, several workshop attendees suggested the formation of a standing housing committee, a move towns like Yarmouth and Brunswick have already made. That body could evaluate options like inclusionary zoning policies, which mandate developers include at least some affordable units in large housing projects, as well as explore funding sources to aid affordable housing developers.


The Town Council will discuss the creation of an affordable housing committee and other possible next steps at their Oct. 4 meeting, according to Piltch.

At their regular meeting directly after the housing workshop, Piltch and his fellow council members voted to reduce the minimum parking requirements in multi-family units in the district that comprises Freeport’s downtown. Downtown multi-family buildings using shared parking must now include 0.75 parking spaces per residential unit, while those with assigned parking must include a minimum of one parking space per unit.

Officials say the change could make it easier for developers to bring housing to the town’s heart, a key part of the Downtown Vision plan to rebuild Freeport’s economy.

“What we’re seeing is trends in the market where renters are willing to live in a place with one parking space,” said Brett Richardson, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corporation. “What this does is it creates flexibility for developers to meet the market where it is. If they can make a project work with less parking, that tends to make projects lower cost.”

The town currently has a surplus of parking spaces, said Town Planner Caroline Pelletier, who worked with the Freeport Planning Board on the parking proposal before it reached the council. She expects future cuts to minimum parking requirements for other types of buildings and developments are on the way.

“Multi-family residential parking is just one piece of the parking picture overall,” she said. “We’re not done talking about parking in downtown Freeport.”


While several officials described Tuesday’s meeting as a strong first step, they pointed out that other Freeport housing milestones are already coming later this week.

The Project Review Board’s Wednesday evening meeting agenda included plans to review two housing development projects that could bring 97 new housing units to Freeport’s downtown.

The 144-unit Residences at Crosstree will hold its grand opening ceremony from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday. The celebration will mark the completion of Freeport’s first housing development project in more than 20 years, according to Tawni Whitney, executive director of the Greater Freeport Chamber of Commerce.

While they acknowledged the difficulty of confronting a problem that has stymied communities far beyond Freeport, officials expressed hope that momentum from Tuesday’s workshop will soon turn into solutions.

“This is a town coming together, and that is so unique in these times,” said Mary Davis, president of the FEDC’s board of directors. “I could not be happier to have a town who is passionate enough to want to do something.”

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