Maine needs thousands of new units of affordable housing for seniors who spend too much of their limited and fixed incomes on where they live, yet have nowhere else to go. Only a few dozen, however, will be built in the next year or so.

Question 2 on Tuesday’s statewide ballot would provide $15 million to spur the development of 225 additional units, and to repair the homes of 100 low-income seniors so they can stay safely where they are.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the needs that will be generated by Maine’s coming demographic storm, but it’s a necessary step in the right direction.

Mainers should vote yes on Question 2 to give life to an initiative that is slowing just as it should be ramping up, and send the message that all of the state’s seniors should be able to age with dignity, regardless of their financial situation.

There is no doubt there is a need for more senior housing in Maine. The state has the second-highest proportion of residents older than 65, with more residents reaching that age at the rate of 18,250 a year.

By 2030, a quarter of the state will be older than 65, and there will be twice as many Mainers older than 85 than there are today.

In addition, Maine has one of the nation’s oldest housing stocks, leaving many Mainers aging in houses that are too large, too drafty and too difficult to maintain, and looking to downsize.

For those who can afford market-rate apartments, there are options. In the Portland area alone, more than 600 units of market-rate senior housing are expected to open this year.

Only a fraction of that, however, is being made available for low-income seniors.

The Maine State Housing Authority, which uses its own bonds and funds from a 2009 bond issue, built an average of 120 affordable senior housing units over six years, expects to construct only 47 in the next year, all in one project in Augusta.

The slowdown comes as more than 9,000 Maine senior households sit on a waiting list for affordable housing.

By 2022, according to one study, more than 15,000 Maine seniors will be paying more than 30 percent of their income toward housing, with many paying more than 50 percent.

The lack of affordable housing leaves those low-income seniors stuck where they are, often alone and in substandard housing, or forced to move anywhere they can find a spot, even if it’s far from friends, family and the community they’ve come to know.

In either case, they are more likely to end up finally in a nursing home or assisted-living center, at much higher cost.

This ever-growing problem will not solve itself. Without subsidies, developers are not building affordable housing for seniors, and without a sufficient level of public funding there won’t be any subsidies.

That leaves it to Mainers to stand up and say that every senior deserves a chance to spend their final years in the community they choose, surrounded by the people they want, without worry of becoming destitute.

Vote yes on Question 2 to send that message.

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