It’s been about a year since the Legislature and Gov. Janet Mills passed landmark legislation to spur the development of affordable housing. Since then, the conditions that made the law necessary have only gotten worse.

So how does it make any sense to hobble the law, even before it takes effect?

Several bills before the Legislature would do just that, taking away an important tool for the creation of housing before it even gets a chance to work.

Lawmakers should reject them all, and instead make sure the law is ready to do what it’s meant to do when it goes into effect July 1.

A cluster of tents forms the beginning of the homeless encampment that runs along the Bayside Trail on April 27. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The bill passed last year represents the state’s first major initiative in fighting the housing crisis, which has made homeownership a far-off dream for many Mainers, and left about half of all tenants overly burdened by high rents.

It also upended the longstanding Maine tradition of home rule, which gave municipalities nearly complete control over their own zoning rules, and thus power over what gets built — and what doesn’t. That usually means a preference for single-family homes on large lots, and lots of barriers for apartment buildings and other more dense forms of housing.


Under the housing law passed last year, cities and towns are required to allow people to add accessory dwelling units, such as in-law apartments, where single-family housing is allowed. It also creates an automatic bonus for developers who build dense affordable housing.

It’s not a cure-all for the widespread affordable housing crisis, but it does allow people to make the most of their property when it comes to housing and lower costs for themselves and their family. And when the problem is largely that there are simply not enough housing units to go around, adding more will bring some measure of relief.

The new law requires communities to amend or create local ordinances in order to comply with the new law. Several communities have already done the work and are ready to go. Others say they need more time.

Others still, particularly small towns where officials say the law doesn’t fit their needs or desires, say they will never be ready.

Through a bill under consideration, those communities are asking that the law be limited to municipalities with more than 10,000 residents. That’s patently absurd — under that scenario, it would apply to only 22 communities.

Just as bad is a bill that would continue to apply the law to all communities, but not until July 1, 2025. There’s no reason municipalities should need a delay as long as they are working in good faith to implement the law.


Hardly as sweeping, but still harmful, is a bill that would lower the number of additional units that could be built on a property.

Those are not appropriate actions for legislators in a state in the midst of a housing crisis.

Maine now needs an estimated 22,500 affordable units of housing, a number that grows every year. Avesta, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of affordable housing, has added 341 units since 2020, but was able to find housing for less than 4% of its applicants as need explodes.

The crisis is most acute in southern Maine, but it’s affecting Mainers everywhere. Those who can find a home end up paying more than they can afford. Those who can’t are often left paying more in rent than many others do in mortgage, erasing any ability to save up.

Many more can’t find a permanent home of any kind and end up couch-surfing, at a shelter or on the street. It’s no surprise that homelessness has increased rapidly as housing costs have soared; they are inextricably linked, and we see the effects not only in Portland but in Lewiston, Augusta and Bangor, too, as well as everywhere in between.

Housing costs are hurting our families and our communities. They are making it difficult for businesses to find workers across the state.

And they are almost entirely because of policies that for decades held back housing development.

The law passed last year was Maine’s first significant attempt to reverse those policies. Nothing in the last year has shown that to be a mistake.

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