For rent sign on a building on Penobscot Avenue in Millinocket. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Renters in Maine face a significant gap between their income and how much they pay for housing.

According to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Maine costs more than $1,100. The authors say a renter would need to make more than $21 per hour to afford that, yet the average renter here makes less than $13 an hour.

Greg Payne, with the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, said that the affordability gap in the state has only expanded since last year.

“And it’s gone up by about 15 percent. That’s a pretty big deal,” Payne said. “And what we generally have come to see is that we had a really serious housing affordability problem going into the pandemic. But that problem has gotten a whole lot worse coming out of it.”

While the report found that housing costs in southern Maine were the most expensive, rents were still high in more rural areas. The fair market rent of a 2-bedroom apartment exceeded $1,000 per month in both Lincoln and Waldo counties. Payne said the numbers also highlight the urgent need for more housing.

“We have a shortage of quality, affordable homes in our state,” Payne said. “And we’re going to need to really focus and commit to really growing our supply of affordable housing.”Payne said he is encouraged by the passage of a bill last month establishing a commission to study the state’s housing shortage and potential changes to local zoning laws.