You don’t need us to tell you that these are desperate times for housing in Maine.

The ills of our state’s housing crisis are far-reaching and will take inordinate work and investment to alleviate. It is a vexing, complex challenge and efforts to solve it will have to be time-consuming, many and varied. This is a time for practice rather than principle.

Which is why a new proposal to add a right to housing to the state constitution (“All individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to housing.”) leaves us more or less cold.

Many things stand in the way of solutions to the housing crisis: bureaucracy, labor shortages, high costs, protectionism in many forms, zoning restrictions, building codes. Insufficient visibility of the right to housing is not high on the list.

Rep. Benjamin Collings of Portland, behind the proposal, said he was encouraged by the outcome of a similar amendment, enshrining the right to food, approved in 2021.

The newly minted constitutional right to food succeeded in that it became part of the document; the appearance this session of a proposal to establish another right, “a right to be free from hunger,” suggests that at least one stone has been left unturned by it.


Collings said that he hoped the constitutional amendment would lead to new housing policies. Interviewed by the Press Herald about this type of proposal, Nicholas Jacobs, an assistant professor of government at Colby College, said a proposal like this may be used to “send a signal to voters.”

Policymaking leads to new housing policies.

And if, living in and with this crisis as long as we have been, we need a signal in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to alert us to the gravity of the housing shortage and the urgency with which it needs repairing, all hope is lost.


On Sunday we published a report about the split of University of Maine classes taught in person versus remotely, a split that is now 60% to 40%.

Down to its proportions, the UMaine split is a familiar one in the age of the “hybrid” work. Maneuvering out of the pandemic has required a trade-off by many workers who, in the space of two or so years, came to favor the flexibility that remote work allowed. Such a split is less familiar in the world of private colleges; Bates, Bowdoin and Colby, for example, have restored in-person classes with no exceptions.


There is an economic upside to the remote class; no room is required, no heating, electricity, no parking spaces. The person giving the class can be anywhere. Faced with increasingly precarious levels of enrollment and the variable revenue that brings with it, remote class presents as a sensible and manageable course of action for a concerned institution – and it’s one that’s increasingly palatable to students.

But that upside must be note be the only reason, nor should it be the primary reason, to champion remote classes.

It is as hard to quantify precisely what gets lost on a Zoom as it is easy to quantify what is saved by offloading a campus building.

UMaine started to devote time and money to the development and refinement of online learning long before the pandemic, bringing in available technology and making it as engaging as possible – something administrators must have been feeling grateful about in March of 2020. The system’s 60/40 split did not come about overnight. While it should not go away overnight, there’s a need to proceed with caution. Experts and studies are broadly divided on the subject of remote learning in higher education; UMaine will have to pay close attention to its experience with fewer in-person classes and see what can be learned from it.

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