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Resolution pledges improved policies, incentives to help ease regional housing affordability crisis

Recognizing lack of affordable housing as a regional crisis, Cape Elizabeth has resolved to help the Greater Portland Council of Governments meet its goal to increase the number of housing units affordable to low- and middle-income residents in Greater Portland by 10 percent in the next five years.

The Town Council on Oct. 16, 2019 adopted a resolution to that end, in cooperation with the Metro Regional Coalition Council of GPCOG.

Cape Elizabeth is one of seven communities in the Metro Coalition asked to adopt similar resolutions in what has been described as a first step toward increasing affordable housing in the region. Chris Hall, general counsel and director of regional initiatives of GPCOG provided an overview to the Town Council at their workshop Oct. 2.

"The idea here is really to just get all of the communities that are in the region to make a statement recognizing that we understand that this is a problem and committed to take some action to address it," said Councilor Jeremy Gabrielson, who represents Cape Elizabeth on the Metro Coalition.

For Cape Elizabeth, those actions are:

  • Continuing to require affordable housing in new subdivisions; and
  • Undertaking a housing-diversity study that will evaluate current housing costs, needs, impacts on services and other relevant elements, and recommend actions to create more affordable opportunities for seniors to downsize, and for young adults and families to move to Cape Elizabeth. (At a minimum, options to evaluate should include incentives to create permanently affordable housing, municipal purchase of land for construction of affordable housing and coordination of regional efforts with the Metro Coalition).

Both actions are recommendations of the 2019 Comprehensive Plan.

Affordable housing is identified in the plan as a significant issue that may require shifts in town policy. The Comprehensive Plan includes other ideas for increasing housing affordability, including in-fill development and "Cottage Housing" developments of units smaller than 1,000 square feet.

Gabrielson added that the Metro Coalition will continue to focus on affordable housing as it develops future goals. "I expect likely other ideas will emerge as part of that process," he said. The council may also include affordable housing in its goals for 2020.