Do you favor a $15,000,000 bond issue for the construction of new energy-efficient affordable homes for low-income seniors, the adaptive reuse of structures for homes for low-income seniors and the repair and weatherization of existing homes for low-income seniors, which will create jobs and will be matched by an estimated $22,600,000 in private and other funds?
Ninety percent of seniors want to live at home. But the death of a spouse, a disabling medical condition or an unexpected costly house repair can make this impossible for many seniors. Too often, however, when a senior is ready to move to a more manageable, affordable apartment, he or she faces a long waiting list.
Already, Maine, the oldest state in the nation, doesn’t have enough affordable housing for its senior residents. There are 9,000 seniors on waiting lists for affordable housing with various community agencies across the state. By 2030, a quarter of Maine’s residents are predicted to be 65 or older, so without action, the waiting lists will only grow longer.
Question 2 on the Nov. 3 ballot seeks to lessen this problem by using $15 million in bond money to supplement federal tax credits that encourage developers to build much needed — but not especially lucrative — affordable senior housing. (The problem can’t be fixed with $15 million — the original proposal was for $65 million — but it’s a start.) The bond money is expected to support construction of 225 senior housing units. Preference will be given to projects located near health care facilities and other essential services.
Under Question 2, some of the bond money will be targeted to rural areas, where the private market economics don’t necessarily favor affordable housing. A developer can expect a better financial return on a large complex in Bangor or Portland. Not so for six-unit developments in Dexter or Calais, so the state funds would create a needed incentive for such rural projects.
More than a third of Maine’s seniors are low income, meaning their income is 80 percent or less of the area’s median income. Nine percent are extremely low income with incomes below 30 percent of the area’s median income.
Housing is a major expense. In 2012, 21 percent of Maine seniors were living in housing they could not afford, according to a report by Abt Associates. More than half of the seniors living in rental properties spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Because of long waiting lists for affordable housing, too many Maine seniors can’t escape these circumstances. Penquis, for example, has 170 people on a waiting list for the agency’s 115 senior housing units in Veazie, Corinna, Lincoln and Bangor.
A small portion of the bond money — $500,000 — will be used to fund weatherization and repair work at an estimated 100 homes owned by seniors.
The construction jobs created by Question 2 also are a benefit, with up to 200 workers needed for the typical housing project.
Voting yes on Question 2 helps the state take a small step toward addressing its senior housing needs.