The shortage of new housing in Maine has quadrupled over the past seven years, with the vast majority of the shortfall in the greater Portland area, a recent study found.
Maine was short by approximately 9,000 units in 2019, up dramatically from about 2,300 units in 2012, according to a study on housing underproduction released last week by Up for Growth, a national housing affordability research and company group.
Maine’s largest and most densely populated metropolitan area, Portland-South Portland, represented almost all of the underproduction. It is short 8,000 units. The study noted that without places to live, people can’t contribute to the local economy.
The state ranks in the middle of the pack in New England with housing deficits, with Massachusetts first with 108,000, New Hampshire with 23,000, Connecticut with 20,000, Rhode Island with 4,000 and Vermont with 3,000.
The U.S. is 3.8 million homes short of meeting housing needs, double the number from 2012. The report said the nation is in “an extreme state of housing underproduction.”
Housing underproduction is the largest driver behind housing prices, David Dworkin, CEO of the National Housing Conference, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on ensuring affordable housing. The shortages of available homes and apartments continue to drive up housing prices. Adding to that is the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes to stem inflation, which are making it more expensive to buy a home.
Maine has made some moves to stimulate new housing. Gov. Janet Mills in April signed a bill advanced by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, that reforms zoning laws and cuts red tape to help create more affordable housing, for which there is a statewide shortage of about 10,000 units.
It will take time to cut into that shortage. The state is working toward a goal of having 1,000 affordable housing units produced every year.
The shortage of housing has sharply driven up rental and home prices in the state, the study said. The median rent increased almost 24 percent from 2012 to 2019, while the median home value was up 22.5 percent.
Those increases have caused headaches for renters and owners alike. Some 41 percent of renters in Maine said they are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. More than half of Maine’s renters saw their monthly rent rise anywhere from less than $100 per month to more than $500 per month over the past 12 months, a survey released in June by the U.S. Census Bureau found.
Some 49 percent of Americans cited housing affordability as a major problem in their community, a Pew Research Center study earlier this year found. Concerns about housing costs outranked those about drugs, the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and crime.