As you go about the day-to-day tasks and purposes of your life, I ask you to focus on the people you interact with regularly. You may even have gotten to know them well enough to know about their families and children. Ask yourself where they fall on Maine’s income scales, and where they might live – or want to live.

MaineHousing’s financing is geared toward providing housing that is affordable to those with low and middle incomes. Too often there is a negative stigma towards this population, but I would argue you know these hard-working people well; you see them daily, everywhere you go. From households starting careers to those winding down to retirement, the ages of the people we support covers the spectrum.

Overall, these households earn between 30% and 120% of local area median income (AMI). In Cumberland County, for example, you might be surprised to learn who falls where on the scale.

If you dropped your little one at daycare there this morning, for example, consider the annual median income for a childcare provider in southern Maine is $31,661 – just 36% AMI.

Maybe your children are a little older and take the bus to school. The median wage for a bus driver, trusted to get our most precious loved ones safely to and from school each day, hovers right around $19 an hour – at most, netting just under $40,000 a year – just under 46% AMI.

Heaven forbid you or any of your loved ones suffer an emergency needing the help of an emergency medical technician (EMT). Cumberland County’s median EMT wage is $33,000 a year – less than 38% AMI.


The barista that served up your coffee at the drive-thru window at the local Dunkin, Aroma Joe’s or Starbucks? They too earn well below county AMI – only 28.5% – with a median annual salary around $25,000. The same for McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell or almost any fast-food worker.

If you are frugal and eat all of your meals at home, consider the clerk stocking the shelves at your local grocery store and the cashier checking you out; neither of them are making close to local AMI either. Both are in the same ballpark as the barista, the burger cook and the bus driver.

Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and hospice or home care aides, who help keep Mainers comfortably in their homes rather than relying on costly full-time nursing care, also fall far short, earning only about 33% AMI. If you need or may need this help someday, you may want to make sure these skilled and compassionate workers are able to live nearby and do not have to commute hours to get to your bedside.

Consider a first-year schoolteacher, with a life-long dream of giving back by helping children learn and grow. Once the bus driver gets the kids safely to school, their role is paramount. Yet, that starting teacher’s median wage in Cumberland County is $42,000 a year. Higher than the barista, but still only 47.5% of AMI.

Imagine your world without any of these critical workers – many of them our friends, our family members, our colleagues, and our coworkers. Why can’t they be our neighbors?

Ask yourself each time a new proposal for affordable housing comes to your neighborhood whether your life is better because of the people playing these critical roles locally. I believe the answer is an easy one, and the answer on housing should be an easy one too.

For the first time in decades, local, state and federal elected leaders are united on creating affordable housing. We too must capitalize on this moment and say yes, please come live in my neighborhood.

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