I chaired the Cumberland Affordable Housing Task Force. We delivered our report to the council on Jan. 23, 2023. The task force consisted of 10 Cumberland residents who volunteered to undertake this task. Starting in July 2022, we worked very hard on this complex issue delivering a unanimous report reflecting members’ mutual respect, collaboration, problem solving and consensus.

In our cover letter to the Town Council, we noted that every town and city in the county and across the state are dealing with these issues: shortages of housing, the absence of affordable housing, and increasing homelessness. We are watching a disaster unfold before us and no community, not even Cumberland, is immune.

We made three critical recommendations:

1. To strengthen the Cumberland Housing Authority, to focus talent and resources on affordable housing and to work with other agencies to meet these needs.

2 A set-aside of 20% of all new single-family and multifamily subdivisions of over 10 units for affordable housing.

3. To take immediate action to develop, assist and facilitate the development of at least 150 units of affordable housing in our town.


These developments are limited to the growth areas. Unfortunately the proposed development along Route 1 was withdrawn, making the goal of 150 additional affordable units in town more of a challenge. Available and appropriate sites are imperative before meaningful development can begin. Cumberland’s growth areas, properly zoned and in close proximity to utilities and community services, are very limited. The Drowne Road site selected by the council meets all the necessary criteria: It is near to town services, schools, churches, the fire station, Town Hall and restaurants. The site is part of TIF District 8. This district will make approximately $384,000 available to the town’s general fund for the next 14 years.

While there is strong support for this project, a number of residents have voiced their concerns about costs to the town and increased property taxes. The short answer is that the developer is responsible for all project costs, including road paving, utilities, snow removal and trash collection. The Planning Board will carefully review traffic impacts and direct mitigation also at the expense of the developer. Any costs relating to police, fire and EMS will be consistent with population increases of any kind.

This leaves impact on our schools and taxpayers. The experience in recent apartment developments is that they have very few children who actually attend SAD 51 schools. Therefore, remembering that 36 units are reserved for elderly residents, that another 36 units have only one bedroom and that only the two- and three-bedroom units are anticipated to potentially house a family, it has been calculated that if there are 23 or fewer additional students enrolled in SAD 51 in any one year, the additional cost to Cumberland taxpayers is effectively $0, as revenue from the TIF will offset those additional costs. If student numbers increase, taxes would then rise based on the number of additional students over the initial 23, which based on current education costs is estimated to be $1 per additional child for each $100,000 of a home’s value. Thus, the elderly resident homeowners who have expressed very strong and heartfelt concerns over large tax increases can rest easy.

We support the decision of the council to put this matter to a referendum vote. It is very important to show that we are cognizant of the needs in our town and around us for affordable housing. It will show us that the town where my wife and I have lived for the last 43 years is, in fact, the place we had always hoped it would be.

James Broder, a Cumberland resident, is an “Of Counsel” attorney at Bernstein Shur.

Comments are not available on this story.