Maine’s Fast Growing Housing Concerns
The senior population in Maine is among the fastest growing in the United States. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Senior Health and Housing Task Force reported that after Florida, Maine is home to the highest percentage of residents over age 65. This number will soon rise, since the average age of a Maine resident is currently 43.5.
Columnist George Mitchell, of CentralMaine.com, explains how the increasing senior population is translating into a housing issue for the state. “While most older adults in the state own their homes, incomes decline significantly as people age, a situation that will affect the thousands of seniors who still hold mortgages and pay property taxes.”
Mitchell shares that a recent AARP survey found that “an overwhelming majority of older adults will seek to “age in place” in their own homes and communities. Yet most homes lack the design features like “no-step” entrances, extra-wide hallways and doors and accessible switches and outlets that can help ensure safe and independent living by seniors.”
The Maine Association of REALTORS® (MAR) and its members often work with senior clients, and are aware of the housing challenges Mitchell wrote about in his article. Suzanne Guild, MAR’s CEO, said, “As REALTORS®, as neighbors, we want to make sure that the seniors in our state have safe, affordable housing. As an emerging policy issue, it’s important that we begin partnering with housing and service providers to have a seat at the table for the development of solutions.”
MAR joined forces with the Maine Council on Aging and the State Housing Authority to host a conference called “Housing Solutions for Maine’s New Age” in May of 2018. The event provided an opportunity to identify solutions and greater housing opportunities for Maine seniors. The conference attendees came prepared to create an actionable, long-range plan that would address the changing housing needs of aging Mainers.
Discussions centered around solutions that would honor the wishes of seniors who wanted to remain in their homes as they aged. These included finding ways to provide repairs and modifications as well as developing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Emerging design trends like tiny homes and the development of “scattered site” development of affordable housing were also brought to light.
“The conference brought together the knowledge of more than 100 housing professionals. We were able to identify immediate and long term solutions that will help our senior population continue to enjoy the benefits of home ownership.”