House Speaker Ryan Fecteau explains his bill aimed at increasing Maine’s housing stock in front of an accessory dwelling unit in Brunswick on Wednesday. Fecteau’s bill would, among other things, allow an accessory dwelling unit to be built on the property of any-single family home in Maine. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

House Speaker Ryan Fecteau visited Brunswick Wednesday to tout a bill aimed at expanding Maine’s housing stock by allowing single-family homeowners to build a secondary housing unit on their property.

Fecteau’s bill would put nine recommendations from the state’s Commission to Increase Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions into law.

“The lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis level,” Fecteau said. “Before it impacts our children’s futures and their ability to make a life for themselves in Maine, I believe we need to act. We can do that today by simply removing outdated zoning regulations that prevent housing from being built.”

One of those recommendations is to allow an accessory dwelling unit to be built on the property of any single-family home in Maine. The smaller living units can either be attached to the original home, exist within the footprint of the original home, or be independent from the home on the same lot.

“Homeowners can freely build a structure for their son returning home from college to look for his first job, or older Mainers can be taken care of close to their grandchildren, aging joyfully with the family they love,” said Fecteau. “It would be a godsend for so many families to be able to take care of a loved one right on the property they already own and the primary dwelling they’ve lived in all their lives.”

According to a news release, Maine needs to build 1,000 affordable units each year to meet demand, but only 25% of that need was met on average from 2014-2020.


Maine Housing Authority Director Daniel Brennan said he didn’t know how many secondary units could be built as a result of this bill, but said “once municipalities make it easier for people to do, people are going to realize how easy it is.”

Fecteau said allowing Mainers to build in-law apartments or cottages on their property benefits communities as well because it doesn’t take away other land that could be used for commercial properties while diversifying an area’s population.

Chris Lee builds detached units through his Brunswick-based company Backyard ADUs. Lee said his company has built 15 units each year in 2020 and 2021 and plans to build another 20-30 this year.

Lee said most of the units he builds are between 700-800 square feet, have two bedrooms, and cost about $200,000-$230,000. About 75% of the units he builds are for an aging parent on their adult child’s land, said Lee. This allows the aging parent or couple to be taken care of and be close to their grandchildren.

Building a smaller unit for an elderly parent or couple also frees up space for other demographics in the area who need to find appropriate and affordable housing, Lee said.

“The elderly couple can sell a house that’s too big for them and a young family can buy it instead of buying a smaller condo that a young professional can then move into,” said Lee.


Brunswick Code Enforcement Officer and Zoning Administrator Julie Erdman told The Times Record last month over 100 of these secondary living units have cropped up in Brunswick. Erdman said this type of housing is attractive because it gives people a place to live and serves as a source of income for the owner but doesn’t impact the density of an area.

“A lot of the time, people might make an accessory apartment with the intention of having family there, but use it as a rental down the road,” said Erdman. “I think a lot of people are able to make ends meet by renting them out.”

In neighboring Bath, city councilors gave preliminary approval last month to a new rule that lets residents create and rent out a living unit on the same property as their single or two-family home. Councilors are expected to give final approval to that rule Wednesday evening.

Bath has 2,640 single-family or two-family residences that would qualify to add a living unit as a result of this new rule, according to Bath Housing Director Deb Keller. If just 5% of those eligible residents took advantage of the allowance, it would add 132 new housing units in the city.

Aside from providing more housing for those looking to move to Bath, Keller said the increase in housing could have ripple effects that benefit the region’s workforce shortage.

“We have seen an increase in rental prices over the past five years in the 70% range – and it’s clear that wages haven’t kept pace with housing costs,” said Keller. “The shortage of housing in the entire region – spanning Bath, Brunswick, Topsham, Freeport and surrounding towns – has impacted our ability to build and sustain a strong workforce. There isn’t a quick fix, but we need more housing, and we need to be working at this problem from a variety of angles.”

MaineHousing spokesperson Scott Thistle said the authority supports adding secondary units to single-family homes as long as they aren’t used for short-term rentals like Airbnb, as they take that property off the housing market.

“We are even more supportive of ADUs that would be added to existing single-family homes if they are provided as affordable rents for those who may otherwise struggle to pay for a market-rate unit in these extraordinarily tight and costly housing markets,” said Thistle.

Aside from giving the green light to secondary living units, Fecteau said his bill would empower municipalities to make changes to foster better conditions for housing construction and forge a state and local partnership to address the housing crisis. The bill also holds incentives for communities to discuss and address zoning issues.

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