Aging, Housing, Business and Construction Sector Leaders Celebrate Passage of Senior Housing Bond
PORTLAND – Leaders from a wide range of statewide organizations praised lawmakers on the passage of a $15 million general obligation bond proposal to build affordable homes for Maine seniors. The measure was approved on June 30th with strong, bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and it became law at midnight on Saturday, July 11th. It will go before voters in November for final approval.
The bond was proposed in response to a large and growing unmet need for senior housing statewide. A 2015 study by a national research firm found that Maine has a shortage of nearly 9,000 units of affordable housing available to low income older people, a shortage projected to grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 barring any change to the state’s housing stock.
The bond has the strong support of AARP, the Maine Council on Aging and more than 150 other businesses and organizations, including the Associated General Contractors of Maine, Associated Builders & Contractors of Maine, Maine Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, American Council of Engineering Companies of Maine, Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, Maine Real Estate & Development Association, and Maine Real Estate Managers Association.
Business and construction industry leaders see the initiative as an opportunity to recover critical jobs that were lost during the recession. “Between 2006 and today, Maine lost nearly 10,000 construction jobs,” said Matt Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine. “Even in the past year while other states have seen significant job growth, Maine lost another 200 construction sector jobs. The senior affordable housing bond is a win-win for the State of Maine, its senior population, and the construction industry.”
Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, considers the housing bond proposal to be a responsible and timely use of limited state borrowing capacity to address Maine’s inadequate housing infrastructure. “This timely bond addresses two of Maine’s serious needs. It houses seniors who are struggling to obtain safe, affordable housing and will put hundreds of skilled construction industry professionals to work. ,” said Connors.
The $15 million bond will be used in combination with more than $22 million in leveraged resources to build highly energy-efficient homes for Maine’s seniors. It will also provide for the home repair and weatherization of more than 100 existing homes, allowing seniors to safely remain at home rather than being forced to move away from their communities. The bill ensures that rural and urban areas alike will benefit from the initiative.
General obligation (GO) bonds have been successfully used for housing development several times in the past, augmenting MaineHousing’s limited resources. The agency’s own limited bonding authority can only be used to support a portion of the housing developments it finances; GO bonds must be layered in to keep the rents affordable to Maine’s low-income seniors.
“Without this bond, the supply of affordable homes for Maine’s seniors would continue to fall further behind the need,” said Greg Payne, director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. “Using Maine workers to build the affordable homes that Maine seniors need is a smart and effective use of our state’s bond capacity. The bond will be on the ballot in November and we urge Maine voters to approve it.”