Today across Maine, thousands of older, vulnerable Mainers, many of whom have been kept in limbo for years, continue to wait for a home they can afford.
Despite passage last November by an overwhelming majority of Maine voters, the Senior Housing Bonds have yet to be released. With approval from the executive branch, the Maine State Treasurer typically issues bonds for the year during the month of June. Packaging the bonds this way reduces costs since there are fewer bond issuances.
However, June has come and gone and the administration continues its stranglehold on these much-needed dollars, specifically earmarked for older Mainers in need of affordable housing.
As we have expressed in the past, Maine’s senior housing shortage is at a crisis point. Nearly 9,000 older Mainers are waiting for affordable housing options in their communities. Some are being told it will be at least five years before they will have a home they can afford. Without action, the shortfall of affordable housing will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022. It is intolerable for even one older Mainer to be thrust into such an at-risk position when funds are available to address the problem.
Dozens of developers are ready to begin construction, but as the funds have yet to be released, all projects are on hold.
High housing costs force millions of middle and low-income older adults to sacrifice other necessities including food and medicine thereby undermining their health and well-being. We know that Mainers everywhere want to be able to age in place in their own homes and communities safely, independently and comfortably; regardless of age, income or ability.
The Housing Bonds are a significant step toward enabling older Mainers to do just that through the construction of new, affordable homes. A portion of these funds are also earmarked for home repair and weatherization of existing homes, some of the oldest in the country. Right now, 37 percent of those aged 80 and over in Maine pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
The Senior Housing Bond was a bipartisan measure with overwhelming support from the legislature and from Maine voters on Election Day. It seems unthinkable that the Chief Executive, sworn to serve the people of Maine, blatantly refuses to perform his duty.
Maine cannot afford to wait any longer. Contractors and builders are poised to start construction of these homes which represent only a fraction of those that are needed. Once again, we call upon the Administration to release the funds immediately. Too many of our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones desperately need the affordable housing that has been mandated by the people, and this is simply unacceptable.
AARP Maine Advocacy Director