Deering Place, an affordable housing development in downtown Portland, opened last year. But the need for more such housing continues in Maine and every state, according to a new study. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

More than half of Maine’s lowest-income renters spend 50% or more of their money on housing, according to a national report released Thursday.

Maine isn’t an outlier in the findings. The lack of affordable housing for renters with the lowest incomes is a crisis in all 50 states, and the report found no state has an adequate supply of housing for the people who can least afford it.

The report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition measures the availability of rental housing that’s affordable to “extremely low-income households,” defined as those at or below the federal poverty guideline or 30% of the area median income.

The results are bleak. 

In Maine, there are 49 affordable homes available for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. The state is short an estimated 22,500 affordable rental units, the report states. 

About 30% of Maine renters – or over 44,250 people – fall into this “extremely low-income” category, and the majority are either seniors or disabled.


Of the extremely low-income renters in Maine, 72% are considered “cost-burdened,” meaning that they spend at least 30% of their income on housing, and 52% are “severely cost-burdened” meaning housing takes at least 50% of their income. 

Nationally, about 72% of extremely low-income residents are considered severely cost-burdened; Maine’s 52% is the lowest in the country. Rhode Island has the second lowest percentage with 58% and Nevada has the highest with 86%.

Maine also fares better than most states in the ratio of affordable homes to renters with 49 affordable and available rentals for every 100 extremely low-income renters. 

Nationwide there is an average of only 33 affordable and available rentals for every 100 extremely low-income renters, ranging from a low of 17 for every 100 in Nevada to a high of 58 for every 100 South Dakota. 

But the supply of affordable homes is only dwindling as prices increase. Between January 2021 and December 2022, rental prices increased 22% nationally. These rent increases occurred across the country and were not confined to certain markets. 

The U.S. is short an estimated 7.3 million affordable housing units, the housing coalition found in its annual study.


This shortage was exacerbated by the pandemic. Between 2019 and 2021, the shortage of affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renters worsened by more than 500,000 units, or 8%, the report said.

The report also found that Black, Latino and Indigenous households disproportionately fall into the extremely low-income bracket and are disproportionately affected by the housing shortage. 

“The past three years – characterized by a global pandemic, widespread job losses, record-breaking inflation, unusually low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rental prices – have underlined and exacerbated the financial precarity experienced by the nation’s lowest-income renters,” the coalition said in the report. “These findings underline the importance of large scale, long-term policy solutions to meet the housing needs of renters with the lowest incomes.”

“These numbers certainly suggest Maine is not alone in this housing crisis. But regardless of what these numbers suggest, we all know there are far too many Maine people struggling to pay their rent. That’s why we must keep our foot on the affordable housing gas pedal,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said Thursday.

“We are currently producing more affordable units than we have at any point in the last 30 years. With more than 3,600 affordable apartments in our current development pipeline, we are making headway and are grateful for the critical support we have seen from our elected leaders in Augusta and Washington,” Brennan said. “We hope that support continues because we still have a long way to go.”

Laura Mitchell, executive director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, says the state needs to make bold investments in affordable housing.

“Housing in Maine is at a crisis point for our workforce, seniors, people experiencing homelessness and so many others,” Mitchell said. “The report highlights how this impacts our most vulnerable extremely low-income Mainers.

“We can’t be a healthy, vibrant and economically growing state without investing in housing. Maine’s population is one of the oldest in the nation, which means our workforce is dramatically shrinking. To maintain our economy we need housing for extremely low income Maine people that are working and for seniors in need to move into. Maine needs to make bold investments to build affordable housing.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report. 

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