By State Rep. Martin Grohman
In every corner of our state, affordable senior housing is in great demand and that demand is growing. It’s currently estimated that we have a shortage of 9,000 units, and with Maine’s aging population, that number is expected to grow to 15,000 units by 2022.
Maine voters recognize this issue and overwhelmingly supported a $15 million senior housing bond last November. Even though the voters of Maine spoke clearly and decisively, Gov. Paul LePage is refusing to release the bond funding, thereby preventing smart development from moving forward.
Like the rest of the State, voters in Biddeford also said yes to the bond. It will get our construction crews to work building affordable, efficient housing for our aging population. Locally, there is a plan to build 72 affordable senior housing units on the Pepperell Mill Campus.
Seniors appreciate the ability to live in a walkable downtown area with access to a wide variety of services, entertainment and shopping options. This makes for an attractive option for Biddeford’s elders, the pillars of our community. Plus, through skillful planning, the price per unit in this proposal is very reasonable, making the Biddeford development among the highest scoring projects in the state for affordability and efficiency as analyzed by the Maine State Housing Authority. The project is ready with all of the necessary approvals, and contractors are set to begin construction. The only obstacle remaining is the the release of the bond funding.
This week, my colleagues and I asked the Governor to release the voter approved financing for this and similar projects around the State. Standing with our seniors, affordable housing advocates, builders and others, we urged him to listen to the Maine voters and stop blocking the path forward. Unfortunately, we have witnessed this behavior before: the chief executive willfully ignoring the voice of the voters on a bond issue.
The fact remains, we are the oldest state in the nation and we’re getting older. By 2030, it’s projected that one in four Mainers will be over the age of 65. With this demographic shift come a number of serious challenges for our communities and families. Another reality facing us is our state’s old housing stock, which places additional economic burden on our seniors who often find themselves having to stay in homes that are not energy efficient and not safe.
Let’s face it: we need to prepare for and support our seniors as they enjoy their hard-earned retirement and the availability of affordable, energy-efficient, comfortable & modern housing units may mean the difference between a family member being able to remain in their home town, living independently, or having to move away.
Respectfully, it is time for the governor to take action and release the voter approved funding. With the Land for Maine’s Future bonds, when so many of you reached out to your elected officials and the the Governor directly, we were successful. This is every bit as important, and we need you to join in again and voice your desire to see investment in affordable senior housing.
Rep. Martin Grohman represents House District 12 in Biddeford.