AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The people who run the Maine State Housing Authority say Maine should see a dramatic increase in the number of affordable housing units built next year - thanks to tighter budget controls.
The agency said today it has approved six subsidized housing projects, including three in the Biddeford and Saco, and one each in Lewiston, Portland and South Portland. Those projects will provide 325 new or renovated units. The big change, according to MSHA board members, is that the average per-unit cost has been cut by $74,000, meaning they were able to approved 148 more units this year than last.
MSHA Board chairman Peter Anastos told reporters in Augusta the board earlier this year voted to require developers to sharpen their pencils if they want to win approval for their projects. He says the Housing Authority instituted incentives to push developers and architects to reduce the cost of their projects, while still meeting codes and other building standards. Anastos and others say the buildings will still be high quality, safe and decent places in which to live.
The debate over high per-unit costs a year ago led to multiple confrontations, during public meetings, between some board members and MSHA's former executive director, Dale McCormick. Those board members had been appointed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage. McCormick, a veteran Democrat, had several years remaining in her term of office. But following repeated disagreements with the board, accusations of inappropriate spending by the agency and a move in the Legislature to give the Board authority to fire the Executive director, McCormick finally resigned. That allowed Gov. LePage to put his own person in charge of the agency.