Affordable housing applications rise 32% in northern New England

A third of the 2021 applicants identified as homeless.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine – Avesta Housing, the largest affordable housing nonprofit in northern New England, saw a huge increase in applications in 2021.

The vast majority of candidates have not found accommodation.

The organization released its 2021 data at the end of March. A total of 6,231 people applied for housing assistance through Avesta, a 32% increase from 2020. Around 34% of all applicants identified themselves as homeless.

Rebecca Hatfield, senior vice president of real estate at Avesta, said she and her peers are continually looking for new construction projects to add affordable housing stock to the market.

While Avesta claimed 179 new homes in its housing arsenal last year, 7.8% of all applicants were placed in housing; compared to 9.2% in 2020.

“The need for affordable housing is greater than it has ever been,” Hatfield said as NEWS CENTER Maine toured one of Avesta’s latest projects; a multi-building complex of over 100 units on Westbrook Street in South Portland.

“We’re not going to stop looking,” she continued. “We will continue to reach out to communities, find land and work with cities to build more affordable housing.”

Dan Brennan, director of the state housing authority, said Avesta’s numbers reflect what he sees from most other organizations he works with at the state level.

“These numbers are very hard to hear, but that’s our current situation,” Brennan said. “The gap between people’s income and their ability to afford the rising cost of housing is simply staggering.”

Brennan said housing agencies in Maine built 524 units last year, double the usual production.

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