With the hiring of the new Bangor homeless outreach coordinator, the city has taken meaningful steps to alleviating our local housing crisis where the eviction rate has been higher than the rest of the state for decades. Preventative action is required if we are to prevent the outrageous rents and mass homelessness present in many cities across the country like Boston and San Francisco. Out-of-the-box ideas and foresight are what we need on the City Council and, if elected, these are the kinds of long-term issues I would look to tackle. We need to have a comprehensive plan of sustainable growth and development. This means building our local economy from the bottom up by first taking care of our neighbors who are struggling the most.
The housing-first approach is an evidence-based policy approach grounded in research. Several studies including one by the University of North Carolina Charlotte have found that providing shelter to the homeless reduces overall costs by preventing associated incarceration and healthcare costs. Resources are wasted every year in the way we criminalize homelessness and perpetuate a cycle with no way out. Increasing medical costs, trips to the emergency room, and arrests all cost the city money while no long term solution is provided. On the other hand, creating more municipal housing in Bangor would do wonders to house the homeless population and also slow the quickly rising rent costs in the city.
We can just look at successes like Vienna, one of the most affordable cities in the world, where working people pay low rents thanks to the abundance of subsidized housing. These savings go right back to working families and invigorate the economy from the bottom up. Across the country, rising rent costs have continued to outpace wage growth. Affordable housing becomes scarcer and scarcer while new luxury housing units are built, empty units are filled with more profitable short-term rentals, and rents continue to rise because families will gladly pay more than they can afford to avoid being tossed out onto the street. In this sense, the housing market will only continue to fleece working families for every dollar they can. We must begin to look for inventive ways to keep housing affordable.
That begins with looking toward our currently unused properties. We don’t need to look far to see dozens of properties that sit abandoned across the city. We don’t need to raise property taxes to put these homes to good use in the hands of our neighbors most in need. We need to consider the wasted value of letting these properties sit and rot right in front of our faces and rethink fiscal responsibility. We need to consider the cost of doing nothing.
Allen “Seth” Braun is a candidate for Bangor City Council.