By Ramona du Houx
At a town hall meeting in Orono on April 6,2016 Governor Paul LePage stated that, as long as he is governor, he will not release the Housing Bond funds.
“AARP Maine is deeply disappointed by the Governor’s statement especially given the thousands of Maine seniors who need affordable housing,” stated Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. “At-risk Mainers cannot afford to wait. AARP Maine will continue to work with housing advocates, contractors and developers to ensure Maine people have the housing they need. We urge the Governor to reconsider his position.”
At the Orono town hall meeting, the Governor raised concern that the bonds will only mean profit for developers in Maine. The truth is the bond dollars are to be specifically allocated by the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) and will benifit Mainers who need homes and the communities in which they will be built. These bonds also represent good paying jobs for construction workers.
The $15 million bond was approved by 69 percent of Maine voters last November, but no progress has been made toward implementing it. In July of last year, the Governor attempted to veto the senior affordable housing bond, LD 1205, but he failed.
MSHA has an established process to request proposals to build affordable housing throughout Maine. They have received and spent bond funds on affordable housing, including senior projects, numerous times in the past.
A number of senior projects throughout Maine, including those in Washington County and Waterville, are prepared to submit proposals as soon as MSHA requests them. On February 16th, the MSHA Board sent a letter to the Governor stating in part, "Before we encourage developers to invest their time and money and before we obligate staff resources to this project, it would be helpful to know if and when you plan to approve the bonds."
The Housing Bond will begin to enable more Mainers to age in place by building new, affordable homes for older Mainers and dedicating funds to home repair and weatherization of existing homes, some of the oldest in the country. Right now, 37 percent of those aged 80 and over in Maine pay more than 30 percent of income for housing.
“Survey after survey shows us that Mainers want to safely age in place, in their own homes and communities,” said Parham. “The Housing Bond was a bipartisan measure with overwhelming support first from the legislature and then from Maine voters on Election Day. Contractors and builders are ready to start construction of these homes which represent only a fraction of those that are needed. Maine cannot afford to wait any longer.”
For an overall in depth report on the Housing Bond please go HERE.