Advocates push $80 million in public funding for low-income apartments

Affordable housing advocates are backing a measure in the State House to give up to $80 million in tax incentives to double the number of low-income housing units built in Maine over the next four years.

The bill would give developers access to refundable tax credits to finance the construction of  low-income housing. The bill, proposed by Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, caps the credits at $20 million per year.

Credits give housing developers or investors a refund on their state income taxes. Fecteau’s proposal is designed to mirror a federal credit a program responsible for nearly all new low-income housing construction in the U.S.

Portland Press Herald

Maine needs more affordable housing

In every community in Maine there are old buildings — maybe two, maybe three, maybe 20 — that catch your attention. You’ve probably walked passed these buildings and thought “what an eyesore, when are they going to tear that down?” But for tens of thousands of Mainers, that old building could be retrofitted, remodeled or rebuilt to be the affordable home they’ve been waiting years to find.

We have an affordable housing crisis in Maine: 35,000 renters pay more than half of their incomes toward housing costs; 2,500 federally subsidized homes in rural Maine are at risk of losing their affordability restrictions; and for every family living in an affordable unit, nearly three others are waiting for a home.

The need for more affordable housing in the state is clear, and yet we’re only producing about 250 new affordable units each year.

Bangor Daily News

KeyBank donates over $130,000 to Avesta Housing

KeyBank Foundation, the charitable arm of KeyBank, has awarded a $133,333 grant to Portland-based Avesta Housing to promote housing development for low-income older Mainers and support education and counseling programs for first-time homebuyers and homeowners facing the threat of foreclosure.

Part of the donation will promote expanded access to safe, clean and affordable senior housing, enhanced resident services and investment in existing Avesta properties. The nonprofit housing developer and owner leases apartments to 1,500 seniors and received 1,600 additional requests for affordable senior housing in 2018.

Some of the grant will support counseling and education classes for first-time homebuyers and homeowners facing the threat of foreclosure that are offered through Avesta’s NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Center. Since 2008, the center has assisted more than 5,000 people through community-based classes in homebuyer education and foreclosure mitigation and budget/credit counseling.

Portland Press Herald

KeyBank donation to Avesta will fund areas of ‘critical need’

The KeyBank Foundation has awarded a $133,333 grant to Portland-based nonprofit Avesta Housing to help fund a multi-generational approach to “critical areas of community need,.”

The foundation, which is the charitable nonprofit unit of KeyBank, awarded the grant after extensive discussions with Avesta, which builds and manages affordable housing, Dana Totman, Avesta president and CEO, said in a news release Friday.

The money will go to creating and expanding access to safe, clean, affordable housing for seniors, enhanced resident services and the improvement of and investment in existing Avesta properties, according to the news release.

Mainebiz

Our View: ‘Housing first’ should be part of statewide solution to homelessness

Affordable housing advocates are backing a measure in the State House to give up to $80 million in tax incentives to double the number of low-income housing units built in Maine over the next four years.

The bill would give developers access to refundable tax credits to finance the construction of  low-income housing. The bill, proposed by Rep. Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, caps the credits at $20 million per year.

Credits give housing developers or investors a refund on their state income taxes. Fecteau’s proposal is designed to mirror a federal credit a program responsible for nearly all new low-income housing construction in the U.S.

Portland Press Herald

Lead paint safety program working in Maine, research shows

Maine’s rigorous new testing standards for lead poisoning in children has resulted in additional inspections of dwellings for lead paint, and those inspections have led to more lead hazards being discovered and removed, according to recently published research.

In 2015, Maine approved a law that reduced the blood test threshold that triggers the household inspections from 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood to 5 micrograms. The new standard aligns with recommendations by federal health agencies.

Currently, all children who receive Medicaid are tested for lead exposure. A bill pending in the Legislature would require lead testing for all 1- and 2-year-old children in Maine. The bill – backed by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention – was approved by the Health and Human Services Committee and is now headed to the House and Senate floor.

Portland Press Herald

Efforts by Portland, state navigate path out of chronic homelessness

Steve Bowie thinks back to the two years he spent on Portland’s streets and remembers the feeling of hopelessness.

For 28 months, he battled with a longtime addiction to alcohol and spent nights on floor mats at the city-run Oxford Street Shelter or at Milestone Recovery, a smaller shelter for people with substance use disorder.

Then, in 2017, Bowie was one of 30 homeless people selected to live in an unusual new supported housing facility in Portland called Huston Commons. Based on a philosophy known as housing first, Huston Commons had a collection of small, furnished apartments with 24-hour staff support and a community kitchen and laundry.

Portland Press Herald

What is ‘housing first’?

Housing first is a philosophy that first emerged in the 1990s and has taken hold as a cost-effective way to reduce homelessness.

In a more traditional approach, a homeless person would be given space in an overnight shelter while trying to find work or get sober or healthy enough to secure housing. But with housing first, people are given a safe, stable place to live and offered support, whether its for substance use disorder, mental illness, physical health or employment training.

“We really feel housing is itself therapeutic,” said Hillary Colcord, the director of Huston Commons, a housing-first facility in Portland.

Portland Press Herald

First Fox School resident says former school still has life

PARIS — For Carol Fanjoy, every room, hallway, nook and cranny of the newly renovated Fox School holds a memory. And those memories can be overwhelming.

“The first day I got in, when I started the application process, the plumber let me in. I saw the front staircase, and I sat down … I actually had tears in my eyes,” said Fanjoy.

Fanjoy, 56,  one of the first residents at the newly opened housing unit on Market Square, worked at the school as a head custodian for a decade.

“Working as a custodian for 10 years in this building were the happiest years of my entire career. There was an awesome staff of teachers and support staff. We were Kindergarten to third grade, so we had the babies, and they were so good,” said Fanjoy.

Sun Journal

MEREDA Event – Everyone Needs an Affordable Home: Building on Housing Solutions That Work

Ever since I was a state rep and worked repeatedly on senior housing bonds, I’ve been interested in the issue of the lack of affordable housing in Maine. Following up on that interest, I attended and recorded a conference put on by the Maine Real Estate and Development Association on affordable housing. It was a very well done talk and I’m publishing it here, in hopes that you’ll enjoy it. It’s kind of a dry topic but it’s very meaningful. It features Greg Payne of Avesta and the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition; Jess Maurer of the Maine Council on Aging, and Dana Totman, CEO of Avesta Housing.

The Grow Maine Show