Louis Ouellette of Locbid Construction guides a crane operator over the radio as a panel of cross laminated timber for an elevator shaft gets hoisted into place at an Avesta Housing building site in Portland on July 2, 2020. Credit: BDN file photo

A longtime housing advocate and attorney has been appointed a senior advisor to Maine Gov. Janet Mills to help meet the demand for affordable housing in the state.

Greg Payne will take the position starting Sept. 7, the Portland Press Herald reported Monday. Payne, 52, worked at a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Portland and led the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition for almost 15 years.

The Maine State Housing Authority said the position was created to help meet the demand for some 20,000 affordable housing units across the state.

Mills has tapped some $50 million from funds the state has gotten through federal coronavirus relief packages to help develop affordable housing, the newspaper reported.

Housing advocates say the state needs to create 1,000 affordable units annually to meet demand, especially given the recent boom in real estate prices.

Payne will work with state agencies, the legislature and nongovernmental stakeholders on affordable housing policy, according to Hannah Pingree, director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

“Affordable housing is a critical issue for Maine’s economic growth and recovery – supporting Maine workers and their families, investing in our communities, and addressing climate change,” Pingree said.