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This week’s edition!

Governor Mills: Home is where the heart is

A home is more than brick and beams and wood and maybe a barn and a little yard. Home is where my husband, Stan, and I raised five daughters. Where we sat at the kitchen table paying bills and helping with homework. It’s where we slept safely every night.

But for thousands of Maine families, a safe and affordable home is out of reach. 

Our state has one of the least affordable housing markets in the nation. In 2018, the average Maine renter’s wage was $11.44 per hour, while the hourly wage needed to rent a two-bedroom apartment was $18.73 an hour –ninth-highest in the nation. 

The waiting list for affordable housing has risen to more than 32,000 households. Over 20,000Maine households are on wait lists for federal rental assistance. 

And yet, for all of that, Maine is only producing 250 new affordable homes each year. 

Families that don’t qualify for affordable housing, or don’t have access to it, are paying outrageous rent prices. More than 35,000 renters in our state pay more than half of their incomes for rent and utilities. 

How do we expect to keep young families here, or to attract young families here, if there is no affordable place for them to live?

Last legislative session, Representative Ryan Fecteau — with cosponsors from both houses and both parties — introduced legislation to address this housing shortage. 

LD 1645 provides a refundable tax credit, similar to the Maine Historic Tax Credit, to create an additional 1,000 affordable homes over the next eight years, more than doubling our current production rate.  

At least 30 percent of the funding will go towards housing for seniors, 20 percent towards homes in rural communities, and 10 percent to renovating rural apartments.  

This investment will also trigger matching federal funds to stimulate job growth and economic activity in the construction, engineering and design sectors.

Three weeks ago, in my State of the State, I told the Legislature, “send this bill to my desk and I’ll sign it.”

Well, thanks to the bipartisan work of the Legislature, this week I did sign it.

You know they say home is where the heart is.

I believe the goal of ensuring that Maine people have a safe place to rest their head at night, a place where they can take care of their family, get ready for work and live with dignity and comfort is at the heart of this Administration.  

I was proud to sign this bill into law, and I hope it will allow us to say to thousands more Mainers, “Welcome Home”.

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