I’m a subscriber to the Maine House Republicans’ weekly radio address. I read the transcript every week; I like to keep an eye on things and listening to other viewpoints is, as far as I can tell, good for me.

And I got excited as I began to read a recent bulletin from Rep. Jennifer Poirier (R-Skowhegan), which led with a discussion about Maine’s housing crisis, how most working families are finding it difficult to buy starter homes, how we need 80,000 new units of housing.

Unfortunately, the discussion pivoted to blaming immigrants.

You’d think the “party of business” experts would want people to move to Maine to live, work and open businesses. According to a study done by MIT, immigrants are 80% more likely to start a business than native-born American citizens. Welcoming newcomers to the state isn’t about charity. It’s an investment in our future.

Maine is the oldest state in the nation. Our median age is 45.1. Almost a quarter of our population is over the age of 65.

We need working-age people and young families in order to keep our tax base strong, our economy growing and to take care of our aging population. I’ve worked in Maine’s health care industry long enough to know that it would collapse in about 12 hours without immigrants. We need people to come to Maine. And if they come from away – even from far away – so be it.


Do new arrivals to the state add to the competition for the scarce supply of affordable apartments and houses? Sure. But immigrants are recent arrivals to the state and the housing crisis has been years in the making.

Besides, young people moving to Maine are going to be a part of the solution. Who exactly do you think is going to be building the 80,000 new units of housing we need?

You know who’s way more at fault for the housing crisis? Developers who would rather build luxury condos than starter homes for young families, or single-level homes for seniors looking to downsize. God forbid you don’t seek the maximum amount of profit at every turn. Landlords contribute to this housing problem far more than migrants do, and I never see Republicans going after them.

Every time I write anything negative about landlords I get at least one email from a small landlord who maintains that they care about their tenants as people and just barely make enough money to break even. Cool. Fine. I guess I’m not talking about you, then. But for every landlord like that there are five like the Biddeford landlord who evicted six families with 30 days notice, with the move-out date being a week before this past Christmas. (Did Charles Dickens write this?) One of the tenants was a 78-year-old disabled veteran, who had lived in the building for 33 years and paid $650 a month for his studio apartment. The landlord who evicted him said it was “nothing personal.” Of course it wasn’t personal. It was profitable.

You’re not going to convince me that an asylum seeker is causing more damage to Maine’s communities than that landlord.

Finally, the biggest contributors to Maine’s current housing crisis are Maine’s current homeowners. If houses are a scarce commodity, it drives up the prices for the people who own them. So people sell them for high prices and object to new buildings. I suspect Maine’s strains of NIMBYism come from a combination of not liking change in general and personal financial benefit.

I bought my house two years ago for a little under $150,000. It’s a 900-square-foot 30-year-old mobile located between a transfer station and a racetrack. I love my home, which is not exactly a palace. Currently, the two largest real estate websites, Zillow and Redfin, estimate its value at $190,000. That’s great for me. It’s bad for anyone who is currently in the same position I was in June 2022, a young person looking for a starter home. Or any home, for that matter.

This happens all over the state, in places both liberal and conservative. Look at what happened in Cumberland – not exactly a Republican stronghold – in March. The town rejected a proposal to build 107 affordable units, 2,545 to 1,163. I’m sure all 2,545 people had well-reasoned rationales for why they voted the way they did. But those individual, personal decisions add up to a big effect. In this case, the effect being: no new housing being built in Cumberland. The cheapest home for sale on Maine Listings in Cumberland, at time of this writing, is $615,000. Did immigrants do that?

Why don’t Republicans ever seem to lay blame for the housing crisis with these groups? Why do they always go after immigrants, and in particular asylum seekers and refugees, among the most under-resourced and underrepresented groups in Maine? Could it be because they don’t want the smoke from anyone with the money and votes to fight back? Could it be that pitting groups of poor and working-class people against each other has always been a reliable divide-and-conquer strategy of the rich? That anyone who looks or talks differently than the majority is an easy target? Regardless of the motive, I’m not buying it.

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