AUGUSTA — Governor Janet Mills announced Wednesday a $50 million investment from her Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to build more housing and help more Maine people families find a safe, affordable place to call home.
Maine’s chronic housing shortage has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. In December, Maine’s median single-family home sale price was $299,000, a 38 percent increase over the median price of $216,900 in February 2020, according to a news release from the Governor’s office.
“Rising housing prices have impacted the affordability of homebuying and renting in Maine, which has hampered the efforts of communities to attract and retain families and of employers seeking workers to fill critical local jobs,” the release stated.
Funding for this initiative is through the Federal American Rescue Plan Act dedicated through Governors’ Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. An initial $10 million is now available through MaineHousing, which is estimated to support at least 150 new affordable single-family homes. The additional $40 million for housing will become available later this year, when the second part of federal ARPA funds become available.
Governor Mills also announced funding for two additional housing initiatives from the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan: $1.5 million for housing navigator services, based on an initiative introduced by Rep. Victoria Morales, D-South Portland, and $10 million to support homeless shelters in Maine communities, based on an initiative introduced by Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston. These initiatives were incorporated into LD 1733, the legislation authorizing the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, and will be administered by MaineHousing.
The Governor’s work to expand housing and address homelessness builds on her Administration’s commitment to address these critical issues. One of Governor Mills’ first actions in office was to release $15 million in bonds, held up by the previous administration, that have funded affordable housing units for Maine seniors across the state.
She also signed into law a bill sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau creating the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit Program, an $80 million investment over eight years that represents the single largest state investment in housing in Maine’s history. In October, Governor Mills and Speaker Fecteau also announced that MaineHousing gained an additional $38.6 million by refinancing existing bonds and purchasing new bonds at lower interest rates, which will be put towards construction of additional affordable housing units in the coming years.
During the pandemic, Governor Mills issued an Executive Order to prevent Maine people from being evicted from their homes and established a rent relief program that has helped Maine successfully prevent evictions at a faster rate than most other states by distributing nearly $116 million in federal rent relief funds to more than 18,500 Maine households in a program administered by MaineHousing.
The Governor also signed into law a bill sponsored by the House Speaker Fecteau establishing the Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions, which recently presented its conclusions to the Maine Legislature.