Avesta Housing (Avesta), a founding member of NLIHC State Coalition Partner, the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition (MAHC), launched the inaugural edition of its Affordable Housing Activity Report. The report provides data that show the demand for affordable homes in southern Maine, where Avesta owns and operates most of its housing communities. Advocates hope the report, which will be updated and released monthly, will serve as a gauge for local need and strengthen the argument for increased state and federal resources to provide homes for people with the lowest incomes.
The first report, released on February 20, provides a demographic breakdown of households that sought an affordable home through Avesta in January, including those families that the organization was able to help. The organization received requests for housing from 275 households, but only had enough apartments available to house 29 households. Avesta reports a nearly 100% occupancy rate for the 1,900 apartments in its portfolio. With an aggregate wait list of approximately 1,800 families, the shortage of homes echoes NLIHC-tabulated data that indicate only 40 homes are available and affordable for every 100 extremely low income families (30% AMI or less) in Maine.
Avesta’s analysis of the 29 families they were able to serve underscores the importance of rental assistance in allowing households with the lowest incomes to afford their homes. The median annual income of all families that asked for help was $12,600, about 20% of the area median income (AMI) for Portland, ME, and is representative of the median income of the 20 families Avesta was able to serve with rental assistance. Only nine households—with a median household income of $28,938, or about 50% of AMI, were able to be moved into a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) apartment without the benefit of rental assistance. Advocates estimate that the gross underfunding of the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program has caused 500 fewer families in the state to receive assistance, hindering affordable housing providers like Avesta from serving more extremely low income households.
The report represents a new effort by Avesta to track housing request and assistance data in a consistent, ongoing way that will help the organization and its partners understand the region’s housing needs and develop an action plan with key stakeholders to address the issue. In addition to household median income, the number of new households housed with and without rental assistance, and the total number of apartment requests for the month, the report also tracks the age of the head-of-household and family size.
The data preparation for and public launch of the report was coordinated by Mindy Woerter, Avesta’s communications manager, as part of a wider organizational effort to use data and personal stories more effectively in communicating about Maine’s housing needs. Ms. Woerter will be a speaker at NLIHC’s Housing Policy Conference in April.
“Avesta’s increasing focus on the use and analysis of its extensive data is going to be a real asset to policy makers and everyone in Maine concerned about addressing our state’s housing affordability gap,” said NLIHC Board Member, Greg Payne, who is also director of MAHC and a development officer at Avesta. “In particular, we hope it succeeds in illuminating the massive unmet housing needs of Maine’s extremely low income families.”