Augusta, ME – On December 19th, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) convened an expert panel to discuss the complexities and future of affordable housing in Maine. Speakers from a diversity of development backgrounds examined the growing demand for affordable housing units, the economic drivers effecting development, and potential cost containment reforms.
“MEREDA and its members are committed to developing high quality, cost-effective affordable housing in Maine,” said Thomas Lea, President of MEREDA. “Affordable housing should remain above the political fray. That’s why we convened today’s discussion: to bring substance and clarity to these complicated issues.”
The need for affordable housing in Maine is acute. Panelists agreed that lowering costs and moving more people into homes is a goal shared by policy makers, the development community and the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) leadership and board. The participants also noted that affordable housing development, including the renovation of historic buildings, provides important construction jobs for hundreds of Maine workers at a time when construction-related employment remains scarce.
Despite the public attention the metric has recently received, panelists regarded the comparison of development costs for single family homes to multi-family affordable housing units an inaccurate measure of real project costs and value. Panelists noted that affordable housing developments incur costs and considerations not relevant to single family housing, making “apples to apples” comparisons difficult and imprecise.
Panelists engaged in a robust discussion about the utilization of state and federal tax credits, incentivizing the development community to drive costs down through competition, and codifying these elements in a revised MSHA bidding process. The panel also emphasized the need to strike a balance between cost-containment for its own sake while also ensuring that projects align with both community housing needs and geographic demands.
At the conclusion of the day’s event, MEREDA President Thomas Lea noted, “All of MEREDA’s members, both for-profit and non-profit, are committed to finding new ways to move more qualified people into homes as efficiently and affordably as possible. We will carefully evaluate the ideas discussed today and any future legislation modifying the role of the MSHA board. MEREDA will support reforms that responsibly lower costs while also achieving predictability for the development community.”
About MEREDA (www.mereda.org)
Founded in 1985, MEREDA is a statewide organization of commercial real estate owners, developers and related service providers, whose mission is to promote an environment for responsible development and ownership of real estate throughout the State of Maine through legislative advocacy, educational programs and professional networking opportunities.