Press Releases

Maine legislators, advocates urge lawmakers to pass meaningful rent relief and tenant protections

February 13, 2024


Advocates delivered Valentines and hundreds of petition signatures to lawmakers from renters, homeowners and landlords.

Maine legislators, housing advocates and faith leaders spoke today at a press conference to urge state lawmakers to pass meaningful rent relief and tenant protections in this legislative session. Immediately following the press conference, advocates delivered hundreds of petitions in support of ensuring safe, affordable housing to the governor’s office and to the leaders of the House and Senate. 

Rep. Cheryl Golek (D-Harpswell) is the sponsor of LD 1710, “An Act to Establish the Maine Rental Assistance and Guarantee Program and Amend the Laws Regarding Tenants and the Municipal General Assistance Program, which has a work session today at 1:00. 

Speaking at today’s press conference, Golek said renters with low incomes are struggling more than most to find and keep decent housing: “As Legislators, in this session, we must pass meaningful rental assistance for people struggling to afford their homes, and we must pass meaningful tenant protections from discrimination.”

“More than half of Maine’s lowest-income renters spend more than 50% on housing,” said Golek, adding that people with very low incomes (below 30% of Area Median Income) are primarily older or disabled. For this group housing assistance is hard to get, and once people have it they are unable to find housing that accepts it because landlords illegally discriminate against holders of Section 8 housing vouchers.

Gina Morin, a renter living in Auburn, shared their personal story of housing insecurity. They said, “In 2016, I was forced out of my home and lived in my car for 10 days. My life was thrown into chaos. Being unhoused and forgotten by society was a gut punch, and nothing eased the shame and heartbreak I felt. After receiving my monthly disability funds, I rented a motel room where I lived for over four years. I could pay month-to-month for that room, but I couldn’t save enough to rent a new place.”  

Morin continued, “I’m going to keep showing up here until our elected leaders do what’s necessary to make sure all Mainers, no matter who they are, where they’re from, or how much money they make, can find decent homes without having to break the bank.” 

Spencer Jacob, a renter in South Portland, shared his story as well. He said, “For the past five years, I feel like I’ve either been looking for a better paying job or a more affordable place to live, and it’s exhausting. I pay my rent. I pay my taxes. I have a wife, a kid, and I work 40 hours a week. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to and it’s not enough. Unfortunately, my story is not unique. People need help.”

Jacob added, “Legislators, in this session, we must pass meaningful rental assistance for people struggling to afford their homes, and we must pass meaningful tenant protections from discrimination, predatory fees, or sudden, extreme rent hikes. We need to ensure that everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.”

Rev. Dr. Jodi Cohen Hayashida, an organizer with Multifaith Justice Maine, said, “The people of Maine, our kin, are suffering. And that suffering is the result of policy choices.  Which means we can collectively choose to do better. This session our legislators must pass meaningful rental assistance and tenant protections for people struggling to remain in their homes or access housing in the first place.” 

Cohen Hayashida added, “We have not yet created heaven here on earth. It’s unlikely that we will do so in our lifetimes. But recognizing housing as a human right and working to expand access moves us one step closer.”  

Craig Saddlemire, the development organizer for the Raise-Op Housing Cooperative in Lewiston, spoke as well. He said, “Building new homes is important, and I am very grateful for the historic investments in new housing. But increasing the housing supply does not address the primary reason most people are denied housing, face eviction, or live on the street, which is inability to pay for their housing. The new affordable housing we are building is wonderful and meets the needs of some of our workforce, but it is still out of reach for many people, especially those most at-risk of homelessness. Rental assistance is the missing piece of the puzzle that addresses that problem. Rental assistance makes new housing available to everyone who needs a home.”

More than a third of renters in Maine pay more than 30% of their income in housing, and of those, many pay more than half their income in 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 in all counties except Aroostook.

Eviction rates were up 25% in 2022. 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. Put simply, housing is not affordable for a huge number of Mainers, and that puts tens of thousands of Mainers at risk of homelessness. Nowhere in Maine can the median-income renter afford the median rent.

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Maine People’s Alliance (MPA) was founded in Lewiston in 1982 and has grown to be the largest community organization in Maine, and one of the largest in the country. MPA is a powerful grassroots network of more than 32,000 members who work together on issues that include but are not limited to climate change, toxics use reduction, health care access, affordable housing, racial justice, and immigrant rights.

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Contact: Nora Flaherty-Stanford, [email protected], (207) 370-8314