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Victoria Morales of South Portland represents District 33 in the Maine House of Representatives. She is the chair of the Young People’s Caucus.

Maine people are spending too much of their household budgets on housing costs, which means they have less in their family budgets for food, medicine, transportation and activities for their children. The Build Back Better Act would reduce the costs to own or rent a home by infusing Maine’s construction and home renovation industry with millions to dollars, creating good jobs, homes, and reducing the cost of housing for everyone for years to come. In a state short 20,000 homes to meet the need, this will make a big difference in the lives of Mainers. The bill will also increase the amount of rental housing assistance Maine needs to tackle the 25,000 household waitlist.

The news about the housing crisis tends to be focused on southern Maine and misses the fact that every county outside of York and Cumberland is experiencing this crisis acutely. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District has 386,000 housing units occupied by 657,481 residents. Sixty percent of the renters in CD2 in 2019 were unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment or house, and 49 percent of the residents could not afford to buy a home.

In the 2nd District, 85,472 of the residents are living in poverty, which means a family of four earning less than $26,500 a year, and 13 percent of the population moves homes year to year.

The damage and trauma caused to children by housing insecurity and having to move homes and schools is enormous, it also contributes to low graduation rates in school and the failure to pursue higher education and professional and technical careers.    

Given the urgent need, Maine cannot ignore this opportunity to invest in Mainers at the most foundational level, safe and affordable homes for our families, children, workers and seniors. This investment is consistent with Maine’s Economic Recovery Committee Report of 2020 naming housing as a top priority because Maine businesses, while actively recruiting talent, are unsuccessful because of the lack of homes to purchase or rent.

We can continue to spend millions of dollars on education, treatment, health care and job training, which we should do, but unless people have safe and affordable homes as a foundation, those millions fall short in achieving their intended goals. Maine must fight for all of the housing funding in the Build Back Better Act. We need it more than ever.