Guest column: New thinking for the housing crisis
A few weeks ago, Maine State Economist Amanda Rector gave us the bad news about housing. Prices in Maine have skyrocketed, while the number of homes for sale has dropped like a stone. The supply of houses for working families has dried up. Starter homes barely exist anymore.
In a recent column, Michael Mullins suggests that the solution is obvious: more people should move away. We’ll get back to his column later.
Here are the facts. Housing costs are hollowing out our community. From 2017 to 2020, the cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Rockland jumped from $994 a month to $1,520. This year, it reached $1,800.
The median home price in Rockland is $285,000; in Knox County, it’s $407,500 — up 14 percent from a year ago. Working households — including teachers, health care workers, cops, carpenters and many others — can’t afford to live here. The lack of adequate housing “limits availability for [new workers] and workforce expansion,” Rector wrote, imperiling our economic future.
Over the next five years, employers will need to hire around 800 new workers just to replace retirees. But they face stiff headwinds. As much as 25 percent of qualified candidates turn down job offers because they can’t find an adequate place to live. The recent search for a new police chief in Rockland provides one high-visibility example.