First Annual Housing Summt Highlights Resistance to Needed Housing


Governor Janet T. Mills (D), Addresses the Audience at the First Aannual Housing Conference at Oean Gatewaym, Portland This Afternoon,

Governor Janet T. Mills (D) was the key note speaker at the First Annual Housing Summit  this afternoon at Ocean Gateway, Portland.  In her remarks to about 200 attendees at the five hour event hosted by Greater Portland COG, the Governor announced to the cross-section of housing advocates that her administration will finance the construction of 105  affordable rental units as a result of a bill she recently signed into law.  The one and two-bedroom units are located in rural areas just north of Portland.

The Governor stated that although Maine once suffered from  “brain drain,” there is now a shift in that trend.  Adults are now moving to Maine because of the climate and the opportunities to be part of a remote workforce. But that shift has increased our shortage of housing and making it more expensive as well she said.

Panel leader Quincy Hentzel, President and CEO of the Portland Regional  Chamber of Commerce, said that there are two barriers to workforce developmet that has always been the Chamber’s first priority.  The first is workforce housing. The second is child care.  Affordable housing is the most acute of the two  barriers.  “It’s difficult to even talk about work force development these days because we do not have the right environment to welcome people into our region,” she emphasized.

“Maine needs to build upwards of 84,000 homes by 2030 and in that timeframe, we also have a statewide goal of adding 75,000 people to our workforce.  It is no coincidence that these numbers are closely aligned,” Hentzel added.

People in Maine are retiring and they are opting to remain here.  ‘Which means our workforce turns over, but our housing stock doesn’t….we know that we will be short 24,000 units in our region by 2030.  Yet 85% of the land does not allow multi-family construction or has significant limitations.  Unless we remove regulatory barriers to housing, we will fall short of our production goals and our economy will suffer…”  Hentzel pointed out that both Cumberland and Cape Elizabeth have recently voted down housing projects.

“This is a moment where everyone in this room needs to come together and take off our municipality hats and put on our Greater Portland hat.  There are great minds here today.  No one wants our region to struggle.  Everyone wants to find a path forward for success.  These conversations are a great start,” Hentzel stated.  This blogger noted there were many mayors from southern Maine including Mayor Mark Dion of Portland, attending the Summit.

Greg Payne, Senior Advisor in the Governor’s Office on Housing Policy, said he was glad to see “great people pulling in the right direction.”  He said that there has been a housing crisis for many years, but that government programs have not been funded since the 90s.  “We are in an in-migration state   People are coming from Massachusetts, New York and California..  People are wanting more space.  They generally have higher incomes.  We are playing musical chairs with fewer and fewer chairs then ever.  Adding housing  supply is the priority of Governor Mills.  The situation is too big for us to handle by ourselves.  We want to help the private market to have a role in developing housing.”

“My politics are showing, but perhaps part of the migration from other states has to do with our Governor’s pro-choice stance,” suggested this blogger.  “The Governor’s handling of the COVID crisis was impressive and may have contributed to the influx of people from other states.  Both factors contributing to the increased need for housing in Maine.”