From The Field: New Data from Maine Shows Significant Increase in Housing Need

Avesta Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing developer and provider in Portland, ME, released new data the week of February 5 about the demand for and availability of its affordable apartments over the past three years. The data show that the number of households seeking affordable housing from Avesta is rising dramatically, while the number of households the organization is able to move into apartments has not kept pace.

Avesta Housing, an NLIHC member, provides affordable housing across southern Maine and New Hampshire. Avesta’s mission is to improve lives and strengthen communities by promoting and providing quality affordable homes for people in need. The organization manages approximately 2,300 apartment homes at more than 80 properties. Avesta tracks data on the region’s housing needs to understand the scope of the problem and to share with policy makers.

Avesta experienced a 16% increase in requests for housing between 2014 and 2016, from 3,067 to 3,562 households. The number of households moving into Avesta homes each year remained essentially unchanged, from 346 in 2014 to 340 in 2016. And requests for Avesta’s affordable housing show signs of accelerating. In January 2017, 369 households representing 668 individuals requested Avesta housing, a 30% increase over housing requests in January 2016 and higher than in any month in 2016. Of those 369 households, Avesta was only able to house 35. Ninety percent could not be accommodated.

The number of households moving in to Avesta apartments annually has remained flat largely because insufficient financing prevents the organization from developing additional units each year. Despite the clear need for more affordable housing in the region, Avesta received only enough financing to develop 214 new apartments between 2014 and 2016.

The median income of households seeking housing from Avesta in January 2017 was $14,400, equivalent to 23% of Maine’s median income, according NLIHC’s 2016 Out of Reach report. Households headed by a senior over the age of 55 represented 35% of all applicants, the largest age demographic of the group.

“The fact that the requests we receive for affordable housing increase each year but our move-in numbers are flat is especially concerning as we anticipate budget cuts in the U.S. Congress,” said Avesta President and CEO Dana Totman. “We have nearly 3,000 people sitting on our housing wait list. Very few will get the housing they need without expanding the affordable housing stock.”

Avesta Housing Development Officer Greg Payne, an NLIHC board member and director of the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner, stated that concerns about impending cuts to key federal housing programs prompted the organization to consider additional ways to collect and share important data. “Housing providers everywhere--like ours--need to recognize that we are entering a uniquely dangerous time, and it is incumbent upon us all to step up our game in communicating about the growing unmet housing needs already hurting our communities,” Mr. Payne said. “Avesta is committed to continually improving our data collection efforts to make sure policy makers understand what’s happening on the ground when they put forward their new budget proposals.”

For more information, contact Greg Payne at gpayne@avestahousing.org