Shining a light on affordable housing

A welcome mat

Welcome to The Porch Light, Avesta Housing’s blog. We hope to use this blog as a platform to share information about our work, the industry we work in and the people we serve.

Avesta has been around for more than 40 years and seen lots of change in affordable housing. In the 1970s, we were developing garden-style housing on acres of land in pastoral settings. These days, we’re rehabbing historic school buildings and turning empty urban lots into energy-efficient housing. This progression is evident as you peruse our wall of photos in our Portland office.

This shift reflects changing Maine’s demographic and their needs. More people are moving to urban areas, where they can access public transportation, public services and other amenities. Living where the jobs are is crucial for households that are seeing expenses like gas and food eat up a greater chunk of their monthly budgets.

What hasn’t changed, however, is the need for what we provide. In fact, the need is greater than ever. In Maine, the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent is $15.10, but the mean hourly wage among renters is just $9.82. That means thousands of Maine households are struggling to find affordable housing or are paying more than 50% of their income on housing. Our waiting list for affordable apartments is 2,200 people long, but in 2013 we anticipate having just 400 openings.

Meanwhile, budget uncertainties at both the state and national level imperil the programs and services that help low-income people find safe, affordable places to live.

As the economic and political landscapes change, we wanted to find new ways to talk about what we do and, more importantly, why we do it. This blog is one of those ways.

Why The Porch Light?

The name to us evokes that warm, safe feeling of home ”“ a porch light left on to greet you and to welcome your neighbors. It’s a simple comfort, but one that’s impossible to take for granted if you’ve ever wondered where you might sleep that night. We’ll use this space to shine a light (it’s also a metaphor!) on the importance of housing security and the people impacted by it.

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By Mindy Woerter, Communications Manager