New leaders cutting costs at Housing Authority

Many had marveled over the years at the extremely high average cost of building Maine State Housing Authority units.

Marvel no longer, thanks to the insurgent board members and new director of the Maine State Housing Authority who have been busy cutting those costs down to size.

Several board members had loudly complained last year that the Housing Authority was squandering money on out-of-state conferences and team-building exercises.

Plus, they said, the former director and staff had baked some costly pet ideas into the building contracts, like solar water heaters and training programs for women.

MSHA met with contractors to review material specifications and found ways to reduce costs while still meeting building codes.

The net result, according to Maine State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin, who sits on the Housing Authority's board, will be a 25 percent reduction in the cost of the average MSHA housing unit.

That will, according to Poliquin, reduce the cost of the average unit from $197,000 to $150,000.

This is, of course, an example of the philosophic divide between Republicans and Democrats.

Solar hot water?  Great idea. Helping women learn carpentry skills? Another good effort.

But the more such requirements attached to housing units the fewer of them will be built and the more disadvantaged people who go without housing.

It was, it seems, high time for some new management at the MSHA.

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.

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CRYSTAL WARD's picture

is this penny wise and pound foolish?

If you build housing with green standards and maybe better insulations and windows the up front cost is more but the long range saving are more . If the workers do not have insurance will the state end up paying it out of medicaid .
If people are trained to do a building skill they may be able to go to work and come off welfare programs (again we pay one way or the other ) this is short term saving verses long term savings -- Which comes out better for the tax payer in 25 years??

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

All well and nice, but there

All well and nice, but there are still people out there, and a great many of them, who would look you in the face and tell you that Dale McCormick was doing a stellar job as head of MSHA. Go figure that one.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Thank you, Sun Journal

Carpentry classes for women are great. So chair massages for employees, $7,500 per-unit solar hot water heaters, and $6 million carbon credit schemes ---- when they're not funded with public money that should be fulfilling the actual MSHA mission, which is putting more Maine residents into decent affordable housing.

The changes at MSHA were long, long overdue.

It's good to see some appreciation for the Governor's and Maine GOP's efforts to reform the MSHA, and put the money where it counts. Thank you, to the Sun Journal for recognizing the hard work from the Governor, Bruce Poliquin and the other Maine Republicans who have implemented the needed reforms at MSHA.


Costly pet ideas

You forgot to mention the best one; health insurance for construction workers. Companies will no longer be required to provide health insurance thereby bringing down the cost of building. It seems to me this is just another example of Lepage cost shifting and union busting rather than cost saving. Who will end up paying when these worker get sick or have accidents? Not the state, not the governor but those of us who pay health insurance premiums AGAIN. Since it seems to be the consensus with Republicans that employees should be willing to forego retirements they have earned and luxuries like health insurance the governor and his cabinet should start by foregoing theirs. That's what leaders do. They go first and in this case they should be the first to get off government welfare.

Naran Row-Spaulding's picture

Insurance isn't the Government's Responsibility

Claire -- health insurance for private sector employees is not the Government's responsibility. MSHA is tasked with building affordable housing -- at the best quality for the most reasonable price --- not mandating health insurance for private contractors, or carpentry classes for women, funding for prison theater groups, or extravagant Green Initiatives for the housing units.

McCormick squandered millions of Federal dollars just on the failed carbon credit scheme, to name one gigantic waste of resources under her watch. The other frills and needless programs she implemented collectively wasted many more millions.

McCormick was great at holding staff parties and mandating $7,500 solar hot water heaters, but she failed to implement even one incentive for cost-containment in the MSHA point scale on the housing construction bid awards.

The new spending and bid changes at MSHA have nothing to do with "union busting." They have to do with actually fulfilling the MSHA mission, which is getting the 6,000+ Maine residents on the waiting lists into good housing developments.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Excellently stated.

Excellently stated.


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