A "For Sale" sign sits in a window
A for sale sign graces a window of a building in Portland on Friday, May 6, 2022. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

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Maine’s housing market is on people’s minds more than ever, so we heard them out.

Practically everyone willing to talk at the polls at Scarborough High School during a two-hour period on Tuesday had something interesting to say about Maine’s housing market. For many, it was a topic they were more passionate about than the campaigns decided that day.

Here are some of their thoughts across ages, political parties and life experiences.

Cities and towns must do better

Municipalities in Maine needed to do a better job at creating new affordable housing within their communities, said Steve Pinette, a retired geologist.

He pointed to a planned 46-unit affordable housing project in Cape Elizabeth that developers canceled last year after organized opposition from residents. The town is one of the most expensive places to live in Maine.

“I think it’s marginalizing low-income people,” Pinette said.

‘We need more housing’

The main problem with Maine’s housing market was undoubtedly the lack of supply centered on greater Portland, said Amy Foley, a 39-year-old real estate broker.

A lot of that is because of restrictions from municipalities on new construction, including growth management rules that limit the number of units that can be built, she said.

“The restraints that some developers are under is adding to the problem when we could be solving it,” Foley said.

A ‘ridiculous’ market

Pat Fowler, 69, noted that she and her husband are not directly affected by the current housing market. But she has noticed some of the trends occurring statewide.

“All that we’ve seen in the last two years is that everybody is coming in from out-of-state, buying homes that are way overpriced,” Fowler said. “Ridiculous.”

Maine remains the least affluent of the six New England states: around 26 percent of households make over $100,000 a year there, compared with 43 percent in Massachusetts, according to 2020 census data. That allows residents of other New England states to more easily buy Maine homes and to do so in cash.

Impossible for regular people

Sally Pachulski said something “really needs to be done” about the lack of affordable housing in Maine. Having recently bought a new home, she knows the struggle personally.

“I think of people who just have a regular job trying to buy a house, it just seems impossible today,” Pachulski said.

Looking for affordable, active senior housing

Charlene Gerrish, 79, a retired nurse, has long lived in the Scarborough home she sold to her daughter and son-in-law around 17 years ago. They plan on selling it, and Gerrish is starting to look for a new place.

She is hoping she can find some affordable senior housing. While there are a lot of assisted-living facilities and nursing homes,she wants to find one that is geared toward seniors who still keep active.

“I think it’s very important because hopefully a lot of seniors are staying independent like myself,” Gerrish said. “I’m very blessed. I can still get around and do things.”

She hopes to stay in Scarborough, which she has called home since the early 1970s.

‘I’d be terrified’

Theodore DiRenzo, 73, doubted that Maine’s governor could do much to increase affordable housing, saying it was primarily municipal ordinances that were limiting current stock. He said he would be “terrified” to try to buy a home right now and doesn’t think it would be worth it.

“I know I could get a lot more money for my house, but I would probably have to dump more into a new house,” DiRenzo said. “So you don’t gain anything.”

‘It will go down again’

Bob Roy, 69, held a view contrary to many others: He kept cool about it, saying the housing market is and has fluctuated.

“Prices go up and down. I’ve seen it over the years in my lifetime,” Roy said. “It will go down again.”