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Updated: July 13, 2023

For development of multifamily housing, Maine is still on pace for a good year

Mainebiz Building permits issued for structures of five units or more has had a surge in recent years.

Maine's need for housing has been estimated to be 20,000 housing units.

Multifamily housing is a key part of what's needed. Not just affordable housing, but also workforce units and market-rate apartments for singles, the elderly and young families. 

Looking at the building permits issued, the number of units approved actually hit a 20-year peak last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. 

In 2022, permits were issued for 72 structures of five units or more, adding 1,866 units to Maine's housing stock. In the past two decades, the lowest point came after the Great Recession of 2008-09. The low point was actually 2010, when permits were approved for 20 structures of five units or more, and just 132 units. 

With higher interest rates and the ongoing challenge of managing construction costs, it's not surprising that the number of building permits has dropped off from last year. But perhaps not as much as we might have thought. It's likely 2023 will still match up well with many years in the past two decades. 

Through the first five months of the year, Maine has had approved building permits for 31 structures with five units or more, totaling 481 units.

Projecting out through the year, Maine would have approved 72 structures of five units or more — a total of 1,154 multifamily units, which would be the second-highest level in the past 20 years. 

What's in the works

A number of entities are hard at work creating multifamily housing. Projects are being led by both the private sector and publicly funded or quasi-governmental organizations.

On the private sector side, Redfern Properties is developing 201 Federal St., with 263 apartments, most of which will be studios or one-bedroom places. 

In Lewiston, Szanton Cos. recently started work on Picker House Lofts, which will have 72 units offered at mixed income levels. 

Avesta Housing, a Portland nonprofit, said at the beginning of the year it expected to develop 167 new housing units

Evernorth, an investment fund with headquarters in Portland and Burlington, Vt., is investing $54 million in affordable housing, including five projects in Maine. Maine will see 188 new housing units as a result. 

This is just a sampling of what's in the works right now. 


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