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Gov. Mills urges towns to do their part in approving affordable housing: 'There is nothing to fear'

Gov. Janet Mills addresses a crowd at the Greater Portland Council of Governments housing summit in Portland on March 26, 2024.
Nicole Ogrysko
/
Maine Public
Gov. Janet Mills addresses a crowd at the Greater Portland Council of Governments housing summit in Portland on March 26, 2024.

Construction will soon begin on 105 new homes in six communities through the state’s rural affordable rental housing program.

The Mills administration said Tuesday the new projects will be sited in Waterville, Hallowell, Rockport, Newcastle, Rumford and Sanford, using another round of funding that the Legislature approved last year for rural affordable rental housing program.

Gov. Janet Mills said the projects will pump a housing production pipeline that already has more than 2,100 units. But she said more are needed.

"For the towns and people in the towns who question why there should be new projects in their neighborhoods, there is nothing to fear," she said Tuesday at a housing summit in Portland. "We are in this together. The whole state needs you to do your part too."

The Greater Portland Council of Governments estimates the region needs at least 24,000 new homes by the end of the decade.

The group hosted the housing summit in Portland Tuesday, where municipal and state officials pointed to community opposition of affordable housing projects as one of the biggest challenges they face in effort to add more units to the local housing stock.

Affordable housing projects were overwhelmingly rejected by voters in two Maine towns earlier this month.

"I suspect that so long as we continue to operate in a system where the comfortably housed get to decide where and when others are comfortably housed, we can’t be surprised by results we saw on election night," said Greg Payne, the governor's senior housing adviser.

The Portland area collectively has added about 2,000 new homes over the last three years. But Kristina Egan, executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments, said the region needs to increase production by about 20% a year to meet its housing goals.