Daniel Boucher seems out of his house in Biddeford. Boucher has served on a particular job power charged with tips on how to protect and create inexpensive housing in Biddeford, the place rents have elevated dramatically previously few years. Derek Davis/Workers Photographer

If it was as much as Michelle Byras she’d be dwelling in an house in Biddeford together with her youngsters and grandchildren.

However after transferring out of a $2,400-a-month house she shared with one other household, Byras has been unable to seek out an house she will afford. She’s watched helplessly as buildings bought and rents jumped dramatically in a metropolis as soon as often called an inexpensive place to reside.

“They’re scooping up all of the buildings in Biddeford, fixing up the residences, and charging New York costs,” mentioned Byras, who’s now paying $325 per week for a winter rental in Lisbon whereas she seems for an house.

Many long-term Biddeford residents are struggling to maintain up with the price of housing. A metropolis survey carried out final summer season discovered that 70% of respondents knew somebody who needed to transfer as a result of it was too costly. 

Metropolis officers are actually contemplating methods to protect and create extra inexpensive housing whereas sustaining town’s socioeconomic range.

“We’re attempting to assist cease long-term residents from being priced out,” mentioned Doris Ortiz, a metropolis councilor and chairperson of a job power that spent the previous yr inspecting methods to sort out Biddeford’s inexpensive housing disaster.

The ultimate suggestions from the Mayor’s Reasonably priced Housing Activity Pressure will likely be offered to the Metropolis Council this month. They mirror a number of efforts in Portland and embody adopting inclusionary zoning, creating an Affording Housing Fund, and a aim of making or preserving 900 inexpensive items by 2028. The duty power stopped in need of recommending hire management.

Revitalization work led by Coronary heart of Biddeford started in 2004, 5 years earlier than town’s final textile mill closed and eight years earlier than town bought the Maine Power Restoration Middle, which included the trash incinerator that dominated the downtown panorama. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Workers Photographer


The town council started housing affordability a number of years in the past as Biddeford’s revitalization drew extra folks to town. It adopted an early set of objectives: improve dwelling possession, create extra “subsequent dwelling” alternatives for folks to maneuver out of starter houses, and rehabilitate rental items to ensure they’re lead-free.

The town needed to create or protect 450 items of inexpensive housing annually for 5 years to serve folks incomes 40% to 80% of the median revenue and create no less than 200 first-time homeownership alternatives for households incomes between 80% and 120% of the median revenue.

Quickly after these objectives had been adopted, the pandemic hit. The affect on Biddeford housing was evident virtually instantly as skyrocketing housing prices pushed folks out of huge cities all alongside the East Coast and distant employees moved to Maine.

Many introduced incomes that enable them to pay greater rents, native officers say. In just some years, the elevated rental prices far outpaced the incomes of working-class residents.

Market rents in Biddeford – the place for many years it was simple to seek out inexpensive residences – have risen steeply since 2012, from $863 for a two-bedroom house that yr to $1,211 in 2020, a 40% improve in eight years. Some premier downtown rents are actually greater than$2,500 a month.

“It’s a really robust time to be in Biddeford or a coastal group much like Biddeford as a result of folks from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York are coming right here,” mentioned Daniel Boucher, a member of the housing job power. “You don’t need to reside the place you’re employed now in lots of instances. It’s modified the best way individuals are housing and the place they need to reside.”

Since 2012, greater than 800 multifamily buildings had been bought and by 2020 had been fetching upward of $94,000 per unit, up from lower than $53,000 per unit three years in the past, in accordance with an evaluation from town’s assessing division.

Boucher, who has lived in Biddeford for 68 years and rents an house close to downtown, has seen rents and residential costs rise to the very best stage in his lifetime. He says he’s fortunate he hasn’t confronted steep hire hikes like many others.

“I’ve seen Biddeford, particularly the downtown space, on its excessive observe and I’ve seen it within the ’80s at its lowest,” he mentioned. “Now I see a resurgence and the price of housing has gone up as a result of it’s now a gorgeous place to be. It’s come full circle.”

Daniel Boucher has served on a job power charged with tips on how to protect and create inexpensive housing in Biddeford, the place rents have elevated dramatically previously few years. Derek Davis/Workers Photographer

As job power members examined the housing market, they had been confronted with a paradox: as a result of the revenue of renters locally rose practically 52% in simply three years ($31,048 in 2017 to $47,140 in 2020) town gave the impression to be extra inexpensive to renters, in accordance with the Division of Housing and City Growth’s Rental Affordability Index.

However the actuality was completely different for a lot of people. Many long-term residents pay a larger proportion of their month-to-month revenue as we speak than they did once they began renting 5 or 10 years in the past, the duty power concluded.

“The longer you’ve lived right here, the much less possible you’ll be capable to afford it,” Ortiz mentioned.


After practically a yr of analysis and dialogue, the duty power voted this month to current its suggestions to town council on the Jan. 24 assembly. Metropolis Supervisor James Bennett instructed the duty power he anticipates the council will take up the problem immediately, at the same time as they head into the busy funds season.

“I don’t imagine there’s any member of the council that doesn’t see this as a urgent problem,” he mentioned.

Essentially the most vital advice is that town adopts an inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires all new rental buildings to put aside some items as inexpensive housing.

Biddeford Metropolis Supervisor James Bennett Metropolis of Biddeford Photograph

Portland adopted an identical inclusionary zoning ordinance in 2015 that requires all new developments with 10 or extra items to satisfy a ten% workforce housing requirement or pay a payment. In 2020, voters elevated the workforce housing requirement to 25%.

Biddeford is contemplating a tiered method based mostly on the variety of inexpensive items and the way lengthy the hire could be capped based mostly on the affordability stage. For instance, if the items had been inexpensive at 80% of the world median revenue, 7.5% of items would must be inexpensive for 10 years.

Or builders may apply for a waiver and pay $100,000 per unit that may have been rented at an inexpensive fee. Smaller initiatives, between 5 and 9 items, would pay a set payment of $7,500 per unit, although some members need the council to think about an inexpensive unit possibility, too. That cash would go into an Reasonably priced Housing Fund to assist new inexpensive housing and the homeless inhabitants.

Activity power member Ian Garcia-Grant mentioned throughout a Jan. 3 assembly that the main focus all alongside has been on ensuring {that a} proportion of recent housing is locked in at inexpensive charges. 

“The extra provide we create in Biddeford, the extra demand that comes into Biddeford from the encircling space. Now we have all of the overflow from Portland and its surrounding cities,” he mentioned. “We’re in a state of affairs on the bottom the place there’s primarily an infinite demand that may all the time saturate any provide we are able to create.”

The duty power in the end determined hire management was not an excellent match due to potential damaging impacts seen in different cities, together with property house owners changing rental items to condos and landlords not sustaining buildings. Ortiz mentioned job power members didn’t really feel hire management would assist obtain its objectives.

Portland, the place voters authorised hire management in 2020 and added new restrictions final yr, is the one Maine metropolis with community-wide hire management. The ordinance caps the quantity landlords can improve hire yearly, places limits on safety deposits, outlines how a lot discover landlords can provide for hire will increase, and outlaws software charges.

Ortiz is raring to leap into discussions with the council, however acknowledges it’s a fancy problem and mentioned “time isn’t on our aspect.” She additionally is aware of town can’t repair the issue alone.

“It’s one thing that we’re attempting to do domestically right here, but it surely’s one thing that as a area we’re going to need to work on as nicely,” she mentioned. “We’re going to finish up with numerous homeless folks. We don’t have a shelter right here and the state has not but carried out one thing to assist the area. We’re attempting to keep away from that state of affairs and hold people right here.”

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