How can families expect to get by when they are overwhelmed by the cost of housing, or they are forced to live so far from their work, schools and day cares that they spend hours of each day on the road?

How can seniors make the most of their later years when they can’t find a comfortable, affordable place to live in the communities they’ve lived in all their lives?

How can businesses thrive when our state can’t attract the workers it needs because there is simply nowhere for them to live?

And how can we sit back and allow thousands of our neighbors to be pulled into homelessness?

Maine’s housing shortage extends to all regions and nearly all income levels. It’s causing stress, anxiety and pain in households across the state, and it’s holding back businesses that have every ingredient for success but for an available pool of employees.

A report from the Mills administration released last week confirmed what everybody involved already knows all too well: Maine has to build a lot more new homes to make housing more affordable and to accommodate the people expected to move here over the next several years.


For the first time, the report puts a number on the problem: Over the next seven years, Maine needs to build 84,000 new housing units, double the current rate. There is no more pressing problem in Maine, and short of the climate crisis, there is no issue that affects more people. However, unlike the climate crisis, which will require worldwide action to comprehensively address, our housing problem is a local one.

Too local, one might say.

About half of the housing units Maine needs to build by 2030 are needed because of chronic underproduction. In Maine, cities and towns control in large part how much housing is built within their borders and, for a long time now, they haven’t been allowing nearly enough — not in the popular and populated coastal communities, nor anywhere else in the state.

As a result, there are not nearly enough homes for the people who need them, driving up prices at every level. It now takes an annual household income of more than $100,000 to afford a home — bad news when the median household income in Maine is about $75,000.

As the report states, almost every county in Maine has problems with housing affordability. It’s forcing families to buy homes out of their price range just so they have a place to live, or take on living arrangements that are difficult for one reason or another. It gives few options to seniors and to young people, both of whom have unique housing needs. We don’t have options for the out-of-state workers Maine needs to attract.

And for the most vulnerable people out there, there’s nowhere at all to go. Maine’s unhoused population is exploding, and it’s nearly all a result of the housing crisis. Fevered demand meets low supply and leaves those with the least money out of luck — while handing taxpayers a huge bill as we pay more in housing assistance than ever before.


This is where we have been left by a system that allows every community full control over housing development.

Either our municipalities need to change how they approach housing development, or they need to have a change forced upon them.

That difficult process started in 2022 with the passing of a landmark law that requires cities and towns to allow additional units on lots zoned for single-family homes. It goes into effect starting early next year.

But that law, watered down from a much more aggressive proposal, won’t be enough if communities of all kinds place barriers in the way of new housing, or if the most populated places in Maine continue to get in the way of growth, whether they do it proactively or by inaction.

Last week’s report states it clearly: The housing shortage is hurting nearly everyone in Maine, holding back an economy and a state that is otherwise ready to grow and prosper.

Community leaders can’t sit back and let this happen. If they don’t act in a way that’s going to get Mainers the affordable, appropriate housing they need and deserve, state leaders must step in and do it for them.

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