LEWISTON — Officials are looking for ways to increase the housing stock and affordability in Lewiston, and at the same time are looking ahead at how to plan for recently passed state legislation to address the issue.

During a presentation from the Housing Committee on Tuesday, which reported on the increased cost of all types of housing in the city, some councilors expressed concern for the implications of LD 2003. City staff said the bill, intended to help address the need for more housing throughout Maine, “has deep and broad land use implications.”

The bill, among other things, requires that municipalities allow greater housing density in residential areas, including allowing at least one accessory dwelling unit on every single-family dwelling in an area zoned for housing.

The bill was introduced in response to skyrocketing home and rental prices caused by the pandemic and a demand that far outstripped the statewide supply.

City Administrator Heather Hunter said upcoming discussions on the legislation will come before the Planning Board and City Council in the coming year as the regulations are hammered out. She said staff is awaiting guidance from the Maine Municipal Association to determine what Lewiston will need to amend in its ordinances.

While the Maine Municipal Association did not support the legislation, several communities, including neighboring Auburn, have already embraced much of what is included in the bill. In Auburn, that includes allowing accessory dwellings in all residential zones, and recommendations to increase density limits in much of the city.


On Tuesday, Housing Committee member Cara Courchesne said service centers like Lewiston are “facing increased pressure to offer more” housing. She said LD 2003 also allows for the regulation of short-term rentals like Airbnb, which has contributed to the housing crunch in other Maine cities.

She said while Lewiston is not seeing the same issues yet, the number of such rentals is growing. Courchesne said a quick search Tuesday showed 20 in Lewiston. Three or four months ago they were in the single digits, she said.

The committee’s report Tuesday said of the city’s 17,189 residential units, 7,636 are in multiunit buildings of at least three units, covering 5% of Lewiston’s residential acreage.

Lewiston’s 9,533 one- and two-family homes use 95% of residential acres.

Councilor Rick Lachapelle said Tuesday that he has “grave concerns” about increased housing density resulting from the legislation “and where we’re putting it.”

“I have a major problem with the state coming in and regulating land in Lewiston,” he said.


Councilor Lee Clement said in order to make decisions on what to prioritize, officials need to see a “specific inventory” of housing in Lewiston. He said “Lewiston has some image problems,” and believes “one of the ways to change that is raising the median income level in the city.”

“We need the housing to do that,” he said.

Clement also said the “idea that Augusta can dictate what the entire state needs is not necessarily a good thing,” referring to LD 2003.

The Housing Committee, created in 2019, had its goals updated in April of this year. Among council priorities identified were advocating for “high-end inventory,” more diversity in housing styles, and looking at a regional homeless shelter and/or resource center.

Housing and the homelessness issue facing Lewiston are intertwined, and officials said Tuesday that the Housing Committee and the ad hoc Shelter Committee should be collaborating.

Courchesne said several factors are contributing to a decrease in housing affordability and said the state’s recent changes to its emergency rental assistance program, which changed eligibility requirements, will create “an immediate cliff” for people.

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