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December 5, 2022

New program to help address shortfall of affordable rentals

big building and parking lot COURTESY / AVESTA HOUSING Maine needs more affordable housing like Bartlett Woods, a senior housing complex in Yarmouth co-owned by Yarmouth Senior Housing and Avesta Housing.
Maine needs 20,000 affordable housing units to meet the needs of its lowest-income residents. There are just 51 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 of the lowest-income rental households in the state.
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Maine has only half the affordable housing units it needs to meet the needs of its lowest-income residents, but a new Maine State Housing Authority program is helping Maine cities and towns, regional planning groups and new developers create more affordable rental housing.

Genesis Fund, a nonprofit, mission-based financial institution in Brunswick, is piloting the program, conducting outreach and training sessions for new or inexperienced developers. Genesis will also provide technical support to facilitate a positive and productive experience with MaineHousing-funded programs.

Augusta-based MaineHousing MaineHousing awarded the contract to Genesis after seeking a consultant with knowledge about affordable housing financing and MaineHousing programs, funding sources and general operations. 

According to a report released earlier this year by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, Maine needs 20,000 affordable housing units to meet the needs of its lowest-income residents. There are just 51 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 of the lowest-income renter households in Maine. Nearly 60% of the poorest renter households in Maine are spending more than half of their incomes on housing, with little left over for other basic necessities, the report said.

A certified Community Development Financial Institution, Genesis has distributed $80 million in loans and provided more than 26,000 hours of community development expertise to nearly 400 projects. Its services have helped borrowers leverage an additional $430 million to create and preserve affordable rental housing, build affordable homeownership opportunities and expand community services.

“Helping communities develop project plans and bring together resources is at the heart of what we do — and have done with great results for over 30 years,” Genesis’s executive director, Liza Fleming-Ives, said in a news release.

In addition to Fleming-Ives, the Genesis team includes John Egan, John Gallagher, Mark Primeau and Dana Totman, who collectively have decades of experience in affordable housing development, funding and finance, as well as extensive networks within the affordable housing community in Maine.

It’s expected that the program will enhance and support MaineHousing’s capacity to evaluate and fund well-designed priority projects.

Genesis will manage three areas of service:

  • Matchmaking support: Fielding inquiries from municipalities, housing committees and local nonprofit organizations, Genesis will screen and summarize communities’ housing needs and interests. Based on those needs, it will match communities with potential affordable housing developers with strong track records and continue to provide technical expertise for project planning.
  • Outreach and training: In partnership with entities such as the Maine Municipal Association, Maine Regional Planning and Development Authorities, and other community partners, Genesis will host forums to show developers what’s needed to create small-scale affordable housing project plans for MaineHousing and other programs to evaluate for funding. Sessions will be targeted to regions in the state that especially lack professional housing-development capacity.
  • Financial expertise: Genesis will guide less experienced developers in project planning, including project feasibility, assembling a project development team and assessing funding options. Genesis staff also can help developers complete funding applications and coordinate with MaineHousing to for timely approval and project start times.The work is expected to begin in January and will continue for at least one year.

Genesis has partnered with MaineHousing for many years.

“This effort represents yet another way their expertise in affordable housing development will benefit Maine’s communities,” said MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan. 

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