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Housing is beyond reach for many in Maine. Will Congress do something about it? (Bangor Daily News, ME)

Bangor Daily News
(3/31/2014 3:36 PM, Bangor Daily News)

This week Congress will discuss funding for housing vouchers, which help very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled afford housing in the private market. In Maine, the need for Section 8 vouchers has outpaced availability, pointing to a larger systemic problem: The state and nation lack enough quality, affordable housing to match people’s income levels.

Typically, about 12,000 people receive vouchers each year in Maine, and an additional 12,000 remain on waitlists. Some housing authorities have closed their waitlists, however, meaning the need is greater.

On Wednesday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan is scheduled to discuss proposed budget estimates for fiscal year 2015 before the Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, of which Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is ranking member.

Maine residents should be watching to make sure the state’s base level of housing vouchers will be restored. About 500 of the state’s 12,000 vouchers were eliminated due to federal across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. Though the fiscal year 2014 federal budget restored 250 vouchers, the state is still short 250.

Though restoring them to pre-sequestration levels is a small step, it would help make sure homelessness in Maine doesn’t get worse.