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Tight housing market impacts affordable housing in Maine

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BRUNSWICK (WGME) -- The tight housing market is impacting affordable housing in Maine.

In some cases, people are waiting years to find a place to live that they can afford.

"There is a great need," says Donna Keller, who has received help through the Brunswick/Topsham Housing Authority for decades.

"I feel very lucky," says Keller, "At first I was like oh, you know, I'm in low-income housing and then I raised my three children and I really didn't have to worry about not having a home for them."

Some, however, aren't so lucky, says John Hodge, Executive Director at the Brunswick/Topsham Housing Authority.

"Right now we have more demand than supply and that's putting pressure on housing costs," says Hodge, "And obviously putting pressure on families that are looking for affordable housing."

Hodge says right now there's a waitlist for subsidized housing vouchers, which offset costs so residents only have to pay 30% of their income toward rent.

"We have over 400 households waiting for vouchers right now and if we issue 25 a year, let's say 40 a year, that's a 10-year-wait," Hodge says, adding that people who do get vouchers have a tough time finding a place to live.

"What we're seeing now is we're issuing vouchers and only 50% of those vouchers are able to lease up," he says, "So for us, tat's the biggest indicator of a tight housing market, is that people can't find a place to live."

The issue has sparked several community conversations.

"Who are the people that need affordable housing, what are the issues, what are the vulnerabilities of our citizenship," says Hodge.

Hodge adds that most of the people in his program are elderly, disabled or working families.

"It's understanding who we're serving and trying to get more acceptance in the community," he says.

Hodge hopes the discussion will lead to solutions and Keller hopes the solutions lead to action.

"I think it's a good idea to talk about it, but the people out there, they have the need right now," says Keller, "It's getting cold and that's got to be frightening."

The final Community Conversation, called Promising Practices, will be held Thursday, November 29th at 6 p.m. at the Curtis Memorial Library.

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