Maine’s senior housing shortage is a matter of demographics and economics — there are too many seniors struggling to pay their bills, too few houses and apartments that fit their budget, and not enough incentives for developers to build more.

There are already enough obstacles to ensuring that Mainers 65 and over have access to affordable, quality homes. Nobody needs to be making the process even harder. Yet someone is ­– Gov. Paul LePage, who continues to stand in the way of the problem’s one proven fix.

By withholding $15 million in voter-approved funding for senior housing — itself only a weak response to the shortage — LePage is allowing the already dire problem to get worse. If he won’t offer a solution that is based on the facts, lawmakers should take it out of his hands by passing a bill to bypass the governor.

Time is not on the state’s side. Every year, more than 18,000 Mainers turn 65, and many of them do not have the retirement resources available to prior generations, making affordable housing a priority. There is an immediate need for 9,000 units for low-income, older Mainers, and one study found that 15,000 units will be needed by 2020.

You don’t need to rely solely on the numbers — there are hardly any Mainers without a older relative or friend who isn’t struggling with housing. That means they either pay too much of their income on housing that is too big for their needs, and must cut back on health care and food, or they are forced out of their home and away from their community, sometimes into assisted living situations before they should need it.

The solution is clear. Subsidies for developers to build affordable senior housing has always worked well, creating places where seniors can live safely, happily and within their budgets. Now that the problem is bigger, the response must be too.


At this rate, we won’t get there. The Maine State Housing Authority has averaged about 120 new units a year in recent years and have approved funding for 310 at the present time.

The $15 million bond, approved by nearly 70 percent of voters last November, would build about 225 units over the next few years — a good step, but still only a fraction of what is needed.

But LePage is standing in the way of even that. The governor has criticized the senior housing plan — a pet project of his political rival, House Speaker Mark Eves — saying it would not offer the right services to seniors, and that it was designed only to make a “few people millionaires.”

The former claim ignores the success of prior senior housing projects, while the latter is utter lunacy — the bond funds will go to developers, who instead of building homes for the highest bidder, as the market dictates, will instead create units for elderly Mainers now living in substandard housing.

Given his strong feelings, however wrongheaded, it is unlikely the governor will change direction, and the shortage will continue to grow.If the governor has not issued the bonds by the time the new Legislature is seated, lawmakers should do it for him. Maine cannot afford to wait.

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