Former United States Senator George Mitchell, Bipartisan Policy Center, Jack Kemp Foundation Host Housing Forum in Maine

Jul 25, 2012, 15:21 ET from Bipartisan Policy Center

New Analysis Shows 50 Percent of Maine's Senior Renters and 30 Percent of Senior Homeowners lived in Unaffordable Housing in 2010

BAR HARBOR, Maine, July 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell joined the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) Housing Commission and Jack Kemp Foundation to host a public forum in Maine today to discuss the need for improved housing in America's small and rural communities. The meeting also stressed the importance of integrating social services into new and revamped housing development, particularly for Maine's aging population.

"Too many of Maine's senior citizens struggle to pay their rent or make their mortgage payments," said Senator Mitchell, co-chair of BPC's Housing Commission.  "We need to develop innovative strategies to lessen the financial burden on those with fixed incomes."

The afternoon event featured Barbara G. Fields, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Tammye Trevino, Administrator of Rural Housing Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Local, regional, and national housing experts also emphasized the importance of addressing complex housing challenges more efficiently and providing comprehensive resident services.

Frank O'Hara, vice president of Planning Decisions, Inc., a Maine-based research and planning firm, released new statistics by The Urban Institute.  The study shows that one-third of Maine's senior homeowners, and two-thirds of its senior renters had incomes below 50 percent of median. Additionally, about half of seniors who rented and a third of seniors who owned homes in Maine in 2010 could not comfortably afford their housing.

"These are Baby Boomers who, in some cases, have seen their retirement incomes plummet in the stock market, and in a depressed housing market, it is difficult for them to downsize and sell their single family homes," O'Hara said. "Developers should recognize the variety of need among aging retirees, the amenities they prefer, and how to provide alternatives within a budget they can afford."

Panelists encouraged more public-private partnerships and highlighted model affordable housing and homeownership programs throughout New England. 

"It was important the Commission highlighted innovative approaches to affordable housing in New England. Capable affordable housing providers all across the country are leveraging private capital to not only renovate and rehabilitate distressed real estate, but to preserve public investment for the long-term and transform blighted areas into sustainable mixed-income communities," said Paul Weech, executive vice president with the Housing Partnership Network, a collaborative network of entrepreneurial non-profits that build, manage, and finance affordable housing.

"The session was able to highlight the nation's serious housing needs, but also some of the cost-effective ways in which the housing community is addressing those needs," added Weech.

In researching senior housing costs, Maine Community Action found that, on average, it costs more than $92,000 annually for a private room in a nursing home. Yet, making the necessary modifications to keep a senior in his or her own home costs just over $5,000 per year.

State housing officials discussed the need for the state and municipalities to rethink housing expenditures amid tight budgets. "Clearly, we need to be smarter about how we allocate housing assistance and social services for those on fixed incomes," said Peter Anastos, chairman of the Maine State Housing Authority.

Today's event was the fourth regional forum hosted by the BPC Housing Commission and Jack Kemp Foundation. Launched in October 2011, the Commission aims to reform the nation's housing policy by crafting realistic and actionable policy recommendations that consider the long-term challenges in the housing sector. Throughout 2012, the Commission has been visiting different regions of the country to hear first-hand from stakeholders and interest groups about the housing challenges affecting citizens.

About the Bipartisan Policy Center:

Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a non-profit organization that drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation, and respectful dialogue. With projects in multiple issue areas, BPC combines politically-balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.  For more information, please visit our website:

SOURCE Bipartisan Policy Center