Maine’s affordable housing could suffer under Pres. Trump’s proposed budget

LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — President Trump’s proposed budget released Thursday could reduce Maine’s affordable housing due to its cuts to the department of Housing and Urban Development.

Thousands of families in Maine rely on federally funded housing. The President’s proposed budget would cut HUD funding by about 13 percent.

President and CEO of Avesta Housing, Dana Totman, one of the largest nonprofit housing agency in Northern New England, said these cuts could cause a chain reaction.

“The proposal is just devastating,” said Totman. “The carpenters, the sheetrockers, the plumbers, the folks who actually build those would not have jobs to do so.”

He said that these cuts could force nonprofits like Avesta, and others like them, to freeze construction of any new affordable housing. It could also force people waiting for housing to wait longer. It could also make people who live in affordable housing lose it.

Chris Costa

WCSH6

Furniture Friends giving help, hope to those with greatest needs

(NEWS CENTER) — We’ve all seen the heartbreaking stories of refugees from Syria: entire families forced to leave their homes – and nearly everything they own – behind with the hope of finding a safe place to live away from the fighting.

Some of them end up here in Maine, choosing to start all over again. And that means not only finding a new place to live but furnishing it, as well.

That’s where a local organization called “Furniture Friends” comes in, helping refugees and others build new homes and new lives.

“Because of the war, the crisis over there, we couldn’t stay any longer,” Yassin explains. His wife and four young kids arrived in Maine from Syria in November, and have slept on the floor ever since. Until now.

Westbrook-based Furniture Friends collects donated furniture and distributes to people in need changed everything.

Tory Ryden

WCSH6

Fox School purchase agreement extended one year

PARIS — At Avesta Housing’s request, selectmen agreed to extend the purchase and sale agreement on the Mildred M. Fox School by one year so the nonprofit can fill a $90,000 funding gap.

At the Feb. 27 selectmen meeting, Town Manager Vic Hodgkins informed the board of the request to extend the agreement for the historic school on East Main Street.

In August 2016, Avesta bought the three-story brick building from the town for $125,000 to transform it into affordable senior housing.

“They’re going to need a little more time than what the original agreement called for,” Hodgkins said. “And in that contract that we did sign, there is an option for them to exercise a second year.”

Erin Place

Oxford Hills Sun Journal

Four Alumni in Affordable Housing Describe Their Efforts to Shelter People

The McKeen Center for the Common Good recently hosted a panel of four alumni who are providing affordable housing in Maine and beyond. The four guests work for a social services agency, a law firm, a nonprofit affordable housing investment fund, and a nonprofit affordable housing developer. They answered a range of questions, from addressing the nitty gritty of their jobs to speaking about the entrenched social inequalities, market realities, and political inaction that can lead to homelessness.

The four panelists were Bill Shanahan ’74, president of Northern New England Housing Investment Fund; Cito Selinger ’81, secretary/treasurer of Maine Affordable Housing Coalition; Mark Swann ’84, executive director of Preble Street; and Matthew Peters ’04, vice president of Real Estate Services at Avesta Housing.

Rebecca Goldfine

Bowdoin News

Bed-making takes on new significance – Healthy Homeworks in Lewiston helps people hands-on improve their quality of life.

As is often the case with worthy ventures, Healthy Homeworks was not planned, but emerged spontaneously.

In January 2016, Amy Smith of Portland was interested in investing in affordable housing in downtown Lewiston. The research process acquainted her with “a tough situation.”

Smith, who manages intown properties part-time, and her husband, Nathan, worked through a number of older buildings and met a lot of tenants, and “learned where the pain points were … The generally poor condition of the housing. Lead paint poisoning. And so many people were really in need – didn’t even have their basic needs covered.

“Most people were sleeping on the floors, many of them on mattresses dragged in off the street. And those had bedbugs.

“The challenge was how to help out, from a health standpoint. And since there was clearly such a need for beds …”  Healthy Homeworks was born.

Portland Press Herald

Affordable housing a challenge in Portland’s hot market

Portland is on the map, nationally and internationally, as a great place to live, says Vitalius Real Estate Group principal Brit Vitalius.

That’s resulted in the new-housing boom but also tightens up residential availability nearly to the vanishing point. New units are selling quickly. Existing units that become available, whether for sale or rent, typically attract numerous inquiries within a day or two.

In just one recent day, Vitalius had four requests from new buyers, both locals and out-of-state.

“I have to call them back and say, ‘It doesn’t exist. Be patient,'” he says.

The rental market has also been challenging for several years. Typical renters include professionals who are transferred to Portland, can pay more, and want to live in town.

Mainebiz

MMC joins with Preble Street to provide health care for homeless

Maine Medical Center and Preble Street have joined forces to ensure the most vulnerable underserved people in Portland have access to quality, barrier-free health care.

The MMC-Preble Street Learning Collaborative seeks to help fill the void left by the closing of the City of Portland Healthcare for the Homeless Clinic in 2014, provide no-barrier access to health services, care-coordination and education and create a new point of entry to the health system, the organizations stated in their announcement on Friday.

Working together, Preble Street and MMC hope to improve the quality of care and client access to existing providers and established medical homes, improve medical residents’ understanding and education of the needs and care of homeless and other vulnerable patients, and increase understanding of health disparities.

“Together we can fill gaps in the health care system that in the past have left far too many of the people we serve without medical treatment,” said Mark Swann, Preble Street executive director.

Mainebiz

A Housing Crisis for Seniors

Last fall, I had to take the car keys away from an elderly relative who lives alone. This intervention should have happened much earlier, but when the day came it was one of the more emotionally wrenching things I’ve ever done. “Don’t take my car away,” he pleaded. “Without my car I don’t have a life.”

The fear he expressed is one shared by many older Americans, who, overwhelmingly, live in places where car travel is a necessity. And that number is skyrocketing: The population aged 65 and over is expected to grow to 79 million from 48 million in the next 20 years, and by 2035, one in three American households will be headed by someone 65 or older (and 9.3 million of those will be one-person households like my relative’s). A report just out from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard, “Projects and Implications for a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035 Housing,” reveals that this demographic shift will increase the need for affordable, safe housing that is well connected to services way beyond what current supply can meet.

My now-car-free relative is not the sort to sign up for one of those 55-plus communities promising sunshine, gardens and golf. Retirement was an eventuality that inspired in him not relief but dread. Fiercely independent, an old-school intellectual and, frankly, a bit of a loner, he insists on remaining in his suburban home (“I will die in this house” typically ends any conversation in which I suggest a move) — even if that home is slowly becoming a dangerous place for him to be in.

Annual survey shows Portland’s problem of homelessness by the numbers

They trekked through snowy fields and wooded areas, along icy roads and railroad tracks, up slippery embankments and down slushy paths.

Six teams of volunteers and social service workers fanned out across Portland on Wednesday night to conduct the city’s annual point-in-time count of homeless people as required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The full tally, which won’t be available for a few days, will include any people who spent the night outdoors or in one of the city’s shelters.

Kelley Walsh was on a five-member team that scoured the outer reaches of Deering Oaks, the woods behind Bruno’s Restaurant and the Portland Boxing Club on outer Forest Avenue, and a section of Marginal Way along Interstate 295. Walsh, who works for an agency that serves victims of domestic violence, said she volunteered for the count because homelessness is a significant challenge for many of her clients.

“I did it last year and it was very enlightening,” Walsh said. “A majority of our clients deal with homelessness in some way.”

Kelley Bouchard

Portland Press Herald

A Bold Plan to Prevent Homelessness

It can’t be said enough that New York’s homelessness crisis is complicated. In a city where people are squeezed beyond their means by rising rents, just one of any number of additional stresses — a lost job, sickness, addiction, domestic violence — can propel a family into the shelter system or the street.

The problem won’t be solved by flooding the city with shelter beds, though more are needed. It certainly won’t be solved by blocking City Hall’s shelter plans, as New Yorkers in neighborhoods like Maspeth, Queens, have stridently done, demanding that these families go suffer someplace else. Protesters seem to think that poor people can be harangued into making the rent.

The current crisis requires bigger, bolder solutions, and Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi is proposing one. It’s a plan to create a statewide rental subsidy to help families on public assistance stay in their homes. The program, called Home Stability Support, would help bridge the gap between the shelter allowance for public assistance recipients and market rents. Families who face eviction or are forced to move because of domestic violence or hazardous living conditions need a sturdy bridge to permanent housing. But existing aid often isn’t enough to help them avoid the shelter trap. Mr. Hevesi’s proposal would use state and federal funds to supplement a family’s shelter allowance up to 85 percent of fair-market rent (localities could add their own funds to raise that to 100 percent) and would help pay for heat, if heat is not included in rent.

The New York Times Editorial Board