by Nancy Smith, GrowSmart Maine, Executive Director
I enjoyed a conversation recently with House Republican Assistant Leader Representative Trey Stewart about affordable housing.
In GrowSmart’s community work, we often begin by asking “why do you choose to live here?” Those conversations identify shared values among community members and allow people to see others around the table as allies in growing their towns.
Affordable housing is a key component of smart growth because a community with a range of housing types – in price, location and walkability – improves the quality of life for its residents as well as providing economic resilience to the community.
When a town includes a range of housing choices, housing investments pay off for the larger community, as residents from all walks of life participate in civic activities, shop locally, and enroll children in schools.
GrowSmart supports affordable housing by our involvement with the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. And, our advocacy in Augusta this year included support of the state historic rehab tax credit, as well as support for LD 1956, which proposes looking at changes to zoning and ordinances that create barriers to affordable housing.
In addition, we are exploring two issues that impact housing choices and costs. First, we are designing a workshop and technical assistance for towns wanting to identify gaps in their current housing stock versus their economic and community growth goals. Secondly, we’ll take a hard look at the difference in property tax mill rates between service centers and their surrounding communities. This cost disparity tends to pull growth away from Maine towns and cities across the state, sprawling into agricultural and forest land.
I want to thank Rep Stewart for the chance to share GrowSmart’s perspective on these issues and talk about the relevant work we are doing. Our conversation supports the discussions he’s had with MaineHousing, and Genesis Fund and Aroostook Partnership as he prepares his report for a class at MaineLaw.