Perceptions of Housing in Maine

By:  MaineHousing Staff

Housing is a hot topic these days – from affordable housing challenges across Maine, to having enough housing for our communities and businesses to thrive, for aging Mainers, and everything in between. And no wonder – housing is key to stability and well-being.

And key to our ability to effectively address housing challenges, we need to understand what Maine people think about housing – and what they want. Through a partnership with the Portland Research Group, Inc., MaineHousing commissioned the Perceptions of Housing in Maine survey, which focused on how Mainers view the condition, affordability and location of their homes.

Mainers are mostly satisfied with their housing

By and large, most Mainers are satisfied with their housing – and want to stay in Maine. Of the 1,758 households contacted, 75% were satisfied with location of their home and over 60% were satisfied with its affordability and condition. Those who are significantly satisfied with the location of their home are by and large in southern, coastal areas of Maine.

However, not all those who are satisfied with housing live in the more populated southern, coastal Maine regions. Mainers living in northern Maine feel as though the housing market matches what they want. Despite having the oldest population in the nation with some of the oldest housing stock – much of which is in rural areas, Aroostook County homeowners are significantly more likely than other Mainers to believe that their community’s housing options meet their needs and the needs of their community.

We were interested in what Mainers who want to move want out of their homes and communities. Half of survey respondents who want to move – regardless of age – want to be closer to services and other amenities such as stores, medical services, work, transportation, and recreation. Having a smaller, more affordable home was the second most cited reason for moving. Additionally, many who want to move wish to be closer to the southern coast. And, of survey respondents who want to move, nearly 20% of them want to leave Maine.

Affordability is a concern

Very few respondents who would like to move feel it has gotten easier to find quality, affordable housing. Given that Maine is second in the nation in homeownership rates, it wasn’t surprising that survey respondents significantly value homeownership. A majority of survey respondents prefer to own their home – and cite rental costs as a key factor.

Renters tend to spend more on rent than homeowners spend on mortgage payments. Renters are also significantly more likely than owners to need additional employment to afford housing – especially those 18-40 years old. Younger respondents are also more likely to have had to skip a mortgage or rent payment. As one might expect, households earning less than $35,000 a year are significantly more likely to have found additional employment or to have skipped a rent or mortgage payment than respondents in other income brackets.

Eviction and foreclosure were the leading causes for the 12% of all survey respondents who had lost their primary residence in the last ten years. As we continue to address Mainers’ housing needs, it’s clear that affordability continues to be a challenge for many – even those at higher income levels.

Mainers want a decrease in property taxes, more energy efficiency incentives

When we asked respondents to rate various government initiatives’ effectiveness on housing affordability, the top three were decreasing property taxes, providing energy efficiency incentives, and heating assistance.

Understanding Mainers’ housing preferences is important for the development of quality and effective housing policy in Maine. This survey data adds important information to the range of policy and program choices we need to make as we work toward ensuring that all Mainers have access to safe housing they can afford.

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