James Lysen

Everyone deserves a safe, affordable, accessible home, and together we can work to guarantee housing to all who reside in our community.

Unfortunately, more than a third of renters in Maine pay more than 30% of their income on housing, and of those, many pay more than half their income on rent. Meanwhile, the dream of home ownership seems more and more distant, as the average house price in Maine is unaffordable to the average income household.

The people hit hardest by the high costs and shortage of housing are extremely low-income households, of whom nearly 60% are paying more than half their income on rent. These are primarily people who are working, older Mainers, and people with disabilities.

Housing prices and rents have risen by double digits, and there are severe shortages of all types of housing, all over the state (and country).

Put simply, housing is not affordable for a huge number of Mainers, and that puts tens of thousands of Mainers at risk of homelessness, including veterans and seniors. Nowhere in Maine can median-income renters even afford the median rent.

To address this crisis, we need solutions that enable Mainers to find stable housing now, as we invest in the future. Bills now in the Legislature would attack Maine’s housing crisis by: protecting tenants from unnecessary fees, massive year-to-year rent increases, discrimination, and unfair eviction; keeping tenants in their homes by fully funding general assistance, as we do the longer-term work of building the housing we need; fully funding the development of affordable housing for people at all income levels; creating a rental registry so renters can know who their landlords and building managers are, where they’re located and how they can contact them (we have done this in Lewiston, but we are not effective in administering the program).


We must also strengthen smart growth incentives and zoning changes to allow us to better grow our communities without hurting our natural and agricultural resources. Finally, we must establish and fully fund a system for ensuring every community is part of the solution, actively supporting the development of the housing we need.

To the Legislature’s credit, a special bipartisan Housing Committee has been created to deal with the many bills associated with solving this housing crisis. In addition, the fact that housing bills have been assigned to over seven legislative committees clearly indicates how housing impacts so much of our lives.

Our legislators must support and fund the necessary housing bills to solve this crisis. No person — regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, ability, medical condition, disability, citizenship or previous criminal or housing record — should be denied a home.

We can do this, but it will take us working together to do so.

James Lysen of Lewiston is a 20-year volunteer with the Maine People’s Alliance. He was planning director (1988-2003) and a city councilor (2015-19) in Lewiston, and a former executive director with Community Clinical Services, a federally-qualified health center affiliated with the St. Mary’s Health System.

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