A home on Vera Street in Portland is pictured in September 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett

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The short housing supply in Maine’s market is being drained further by a local phenomenon: decades-long home ownership.

Maine ranks 10th out of 50 states in terms of homes that were moved into in 1989 or earlier: they make up 17 percent of owner-occupied housing units in the state, according to 2020 census data. The numbers do not include homes that have stayed in the same families, which is common across the country.

Studies have shown that Americans are staying in their homes longer than ever, a relationship between owner and property that can span decades. Many of these residents like their home and community and don’t feel they have a reason to move.

But the phenomenon is one factor in Maine’s housing affordability crisis. The numbers also showcase the advanced age of many Mainers in the oldest state in the nation. To be able to buy a home in 1989 or earlier, most owners would need to be at least 60 years old today.

Recent nationwide trends have also shown that Americans are moving less than ever, another factor compounding the low supply of housing. Combined with through-the-roof demand, that has raised prices beyond what many Maine residents can afford.

Mainers have hunkered down most in rural races. The Aroostook County town of Van Buren has the most owner-occupied units for a Maine community with over 1,000 housing units. A majority of homeowners there, some 53 percent, have lived in their property since 1989 or earlier.

That community has seen population declines every decade since 1940, though the rate of decline from 2010 to 2020 was the lowest in 70 years. That has left a population far older than the rest of Maine, with a median age of 55.6 compared with 44.8 statewide.

But there are also numerous communities in more expensive parts of Maine that have high rates of decades-long home ownership. Ogunquit is seeing an influx of new out-of-state residents, but 33 percent of owner-occupied housing units have had the same owners for 31 or more years. The rate in nearby Kennebunkport and Kittery is 22 percent.

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Of the 50 most expensive communities in Maine to buy a home, according to Zillow, Southwest Harbor has the most such homes at 49 percent. The community of 1,500 also skews older, with a minimum age of around 55.

Portland’s rate is 13 percent, and the state’s largest city has the highest number of these homes here at 4,440.

Glenburn had the lowest rate in that same category, with just 4 percent of owners having moved in 1989 or earlier. It is perhaps unsurprising because the median age in that town is nearly seven years younger than in the rest of Maine.

That town has grown in recent years as more people working in the Bangor area decided to live outside the city itself. The largest group were the 39 percent of people who had moved in the 2000s, but another 25 percent moved in more recently from 2015 to 2016.