At the January 24 Council meeting, Councilors Doris Ortiz and Marty Grohman presented the findings and recommendations from the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force Report, which has been prepared by the Task Force over the last year.
Using the typical government measures and statistics, Biddeford’s rental affordability appears to have improved dramatically over the past several years. The story is different when considering the experience of individual members of our community.
Citywide data shows that the median income for all renters in the community increased by 51.8% from 2017 ($31,067) to 2020 ($41,140). Because of that increase, the renter affordability index has improved by 36.6% from 2017 (0.71) to 2020 (0.97). This improvement occurred despite the average cost of rents increasing by 10.3%.
The improvement in the affordability index is driven only by the higher average income levels of the residents of rental properties. Residents that have lived in the community for some time are unlikely, on average, to have seen their income rapidly increased to the levels that we are now seeing in rental properties. The findings of the Task Force show that long-term Biddeford residents are struggling to continue to afford a home in our city, while new residents with higher salaries are moving into the community and taking over the rents of those who have been priced out.
The Task Force has made the following recommendations to address housing affordability:
- The adoption of an Inclusionary Zoning ordinance, which requires new housing projects over a certain size to actively participate in the creation of new affordable housing units.
- The creation of a special account for affordable housing initiatives.
- Targeting affordable housing work to address the needs of those who make 80% of the annual median income.
- Setting a modified affordable housing goal to create and/or preserve 900 affordable rental units from 2023 to 2028.
The Task Force will not recommend any form of rent control as a desired solution to address affordable housing units within the community.