A healthy town has economic diversity and it is nearly impossible for Yarmouth to remain healthy without affordable housing, according to chairperson of the town’s Affordable Housing Committee, Meghan Casey.

“It hurts everybody if we can’t have an economically diverse population in Yarmouth,” Casey said last week at a public session on a proposed ordinance designed to promote the growth of affordable housing.

As drafted by the committee and town Director of Planning and Development Erin Zwirko, the ordinance would require developers of larger housing developments and apartment complexes to make at least 10% of those units affordable for those earning 80% or less of the area median income. In Yarmouth, the median income is $112,700 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“It is a new type of ordinance for the town,” Zwirko said. “The town of Yarmouth does not (now) mandate affordable units within development projects, so there will be a little bit of getting used to should the ordinance be adopted.”

Inclusionary zoning is relatively new to the state of Maine, though it has been implemented in towns across the United States for about 30 years.

Yarmouth is in particular need of the zoning because the once multi-generational town is moving toward being a town solely for wealthy, Casey said.


“It’s very difficult to move into Yarmouth, whether you want to own or rent a home,” she said. “The average price to buy a home in the last year was $600,000, which is out of reach of almost every working class or even middle class family in America.”

Some residents at the listening session Jan. 24 said they were concerned that inclusionary zoning might raise the purchase price of homes to buy in the area.

“It has not been shown to raise the market price or average price of homes in the places where it has been implemented,” Casey said.

The next step for the committee is to work on incentives for developers who would be subject to an inclusionary zoning ordinance, including offering flexibility on building height, parking space and the ability to add additional units. It will also take into account residents’ concerns and questions, Zwirko said.

“We want to make sure that it’s right and fits well with the community,” she said.

The committee will take its proposal to the Yarmouth Planning Board March 8. If approved, it then will go to the Town Council for adoption.

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