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Get Inspired

It takes a village - and a region - to address our community's housing needs. We believe in celebrating successes in hopes of inspiring others to emulate the leadership required to prioritize housing in our communities. Here are some great stories, both home grown and from away. 

Kennebunkport creates a nonprofit housing
trust to make home ownership attainable.

The Goal: In 2018, the Town of Kennebunkport created the Heritage Housing Trust to create more affordable housing opportunities in town. The nonprofit’s executive director, Larissa Crockett, said the mission is currently in progress: to create 25 new affordable housing units by 2025. The success: Six affordable houses are already occupied, and the next affordable neighborhood on the way. The progress is “a testament to the ability to get stuff done if you’re determined and committed to it,” Crockett said.  The first set of six homes has met the nonprofit’s initial goal: providing an “attainable” chance to live and work in Kennebunkport. Crockett uses the term “attainable” to contextualize the offering in an over-heated housing market. “We’re building housing for people who are—in normal times—middle-income households. Housing has become unattainable for those who need it. There used to be a thing called a starter home—now there’s zero incentive to build starter homes,” Crockett said. Now, Kennebunkport has Heritage Woods, attainable homes that run on a land-lease model, meaning the nonprofit owns the land and leases it to the residents, removing their need to pay taxes on the land. The biggest challenge? Though the housing trust has started on its next available neighborhood, Landon Woods, a number of roadblocks remain in the way of reaching that 25-unit goal: zoning and a lack of public water and sewage access limit building space in Kennebunkport. On top of that, costs to build each unit, including materials, the addition of septic systems, and significant blasting, can eclipse $400,000. The reason for success: A key is a “positive and easy flowing relationship,” Crockett said. Give-and-take between the town and the nonprofit has helped make the work possible, and with all the moving parts in town, like planning, public works, and public safety buying in, progress can be made. “The only way it can succeed is to have the elected body supporting the nonprofit,” Crockett said. In return, the housing trust does its part in maintaining relationships with officials and helps them to understand the overarching goal.

Yarmouth uses form-based code to build housing in its village

The goal: create more housing in the village that fits the town's historic charter. The success: three projects, totaling 54 housing units. In addition, a mixed-used building with 12 condominium units will be built this year. The biggest challenge was that many residents were concerned that the projects were "too big" or "too close to the street," said Erin Zwirko, the town's Director of Planning and Development.  Reason for success: The town used form-based code to assure that the new development would fit into the historic community, Zwirko said. "We have completed projects that show the community that form-based code actually created projects that achieve the community's vision—a walkable mixed-use community. Now, seeing these projects on the ground, we have projects that are celebrated and loved by the community."

Portland took LD 2003 and ran with it

The goal: Portland's approach to LD 2003 was to be as "ambitious as possible," said At-Large City Councilor Roberto Rodriguez. The new state law seeks to address Maine's housing shortage by requiring municipalities to allow accessory dwelling units in all residential areas and between two and four housing units per lot where housing is permitted. Portland, like all of Maine, had to meet LD 2003's requirements, but the city took LD 2003 as an opportunity to be more ambitious. The success: Portland's LD 2003 amendments entitle all owners of mainland parcels to build up to four units on lots that had previously allowed for one unit, and it also removes parking requirements for such developments. Rodriguez called the removal of parking requirrments "an exclamation point to the ambition," because of the important role public transportation plays in allowing increased housing density. The biggest challenge: Zoning changes have been long in the works in Portland, Rodriguez acknowledged. He said that sudden adjustments like those with the LD 2003 reforms might be disruptive to the city's overarching plan - but ultimately, he said, he wanted to take the most immediate path towards some positive changes for housing in Portland. "It was an opportunity during our limited time in office to advocate for something wanted by a lot of our constituents," Rodriguez said. The reason for success: Rodriguez said working with local groups like the Urbanist Coalition of Portland and speaking with constituents made it clear that many Portland residents wanted to reduce restrictions on housing. He said the reforms struck a good balance by provding "limited guard rails" that prevent developmers from taking advantage of the reforms.

Bangor builds tiny homes


Photos of builders last summer constructing 34 tiny homes on the two-acre property in Bangor.  (News Center Maine photo)

The goal: Bangor officials want to increase the city's housing stock at all levels so that people who want to live in Bangor have options, said Anne Krieg, the town's Director of Community and Economic Development. They don't just want more affordable housing—they want more housing stock all across the board, she said. Bangor seeks to provide housing options whether people are trying to downsize or seeking their first home, Krieg said. More housing stock across the board means that when people can downsize, their previous home becomes open to someone else, creating a "housing cycle" in Bangor. The Success: The town of Bangor and nearby developers turned to tiny home parks, which aren't massively different from mobile home parks, but because of their configuration, they have a hyper-reduced lot size. That means a smaller footprint, lot size, and narrower roadway, as well as more room for houses and communal space. Krieg said officials asked themselves, "How can we allow for traditional-style housing, making it more like a village?" The biggest challenge: When developing in neighborhoods with long empty or unoccupied lots, there are bound to be concerns about a big change, Krieg said. That's why it's crucial to be upfront and meet with residents early about what's going on in their neighborhood to make them aware of the overarching work and the goal. The reason for success: The local development community "wants to be part of the solution," Kreig said. In addition, she said, there has been great synergy between town departments involved in all the housing work, and the town council has been willing to think outside of the box. "It's really nice to have elected officials who will say 'let's try this,'" Kreig said.

Kittery aims to remain resilient

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Kittery officials are working to remove barriers and add incentives to encourage the construction of multi-family homes like this multi-family house in Kittery.

Goal: remove barriers and provide incentives for expansion of affordable housing opportunities in town, said Town Manager Kendra Amaral. Affordable housing access is seen as a critical point of Kittery’s resiliency. “Our resiliency as a vibrant community of residents and businesses that are diverse in backgrounds, ages, incomes, talents, interests, and goals. We need to ensure we are welcoming, supporting and sustaining the ‘next generation’ of Kittery residents,” Amaral said. Success: The town launched an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) grant pilot program that used ARPA funds to create ADUs for property owners who qualify. The town also leaned heavily into providing more education on affordable housing, including a "Housing Advocate Boot Camp." The biggest challenge: Amaral said in addition to expensive land costs, “an emotional barrier to change,” has slowed housing development in the past. She said a lack of education can be a cause of that resistance: “there is not a robust, common education effort on helping community members see not only the negative impacts of not addressing affordable housing, but the positive impacts of doing this well - AKA ‘what if we do it right?’” The reason for success: Amaral said elected and appointed leaders all pulling in the same direction. “Our successes have come from being vocal and persistent. It is not an easy effort, but we believe in the importance of it, and know Kittery will be a vibrant community well into the next generation if we get it right,” Amaral said.

Madison, Maine builds two apartment buildings using the Rural Affordable Housing Program

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This award-winning design for a duplex in Littleton is is based on historic New England farmhouse layout from “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England” book by Thomas C. Hubka.

The goal: Littleton Town Planner Maren Toolhill: “Set the table” for a better mix of housing types to meet local housing need by adopting zoning bylaws that support a wider range of housing choice. Town sewer was on its way, officials needed to zone for what Littleton residents wanted Littleton Common to look and feel like in 20 years when individual private septic systems were no longer the limiting factor for development/redevelopment. The success: The town expanded the types of housing allowed, resulting in several developments that provide alternatives to the 5-bedroom colonial homes-on-1-acre lots Littleton was used to seeing. Littleton’s new zoning allows senior cottages, duplexes, townhouse (3-8 units attached), senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, and nursing home uses. Th focus is to provide down-sizing and long-term continuum of care opportunities for seniors. Littleton also added a new zoning district that allows mixed use and includes multifamily density of up to 20 units per acre across an entire 40-acre site that was formerly zoned for warehousing. The development of this site for multifamily and mixed use will “pay for” approximately 60% of the cost to sewer the the town center. The biggest challenge: "Putting the zoning in place was relatively straightforward compared to the long-term planning and construction of Town Sewer to service [the area]. (the area)...Listening to the continuing “NIMBY” Not in My Back Yard comments remains difficult and remembering the “why” is key. The reason for success: "Hard work, some good luck, collaboration between local leaders (Planning Board and Select Board), visionary developers, and some State grant funding were the reasons for success."

Lexington, Massachusetts encourages multifamily housing and smaller homes


Lexington changed its zoning to allow for smaller homes and more compact subdivisions, such as these homes in the Riverwalk neighborhood in Concord, Massachusetts.

The goal: provide attractive alternatives to building a conventional subdivision, and increase the number of affordable homes. The success: In 2023, residents in Lexington, Massachusetts adopted a major zoning overhaul that gave developers a density bonus if they built something other than single-family homes. The new zoning encourages developers to build duplexes, three-plexes and other types of multifamily homes. The new zoning also encourages developers to build smaller homes. In addition, an additional 15% of the base gross floor area is required for subsidized affordable housing, which may, for developments of fewer than eight homes, be a payment to the Lexington Affordable Housing Trust in lieu of constructing that unit. Reason for success: Carol Kowalski, Assistant Town Manager for Development Land Use, Housing & Development: "The “Yes” vote from Town Meeting was due to the information campaign by a multi-disciplinary ad-hoc Committee that developed the zoning with the staff, which was chaired by a member of the Select Board. The committee went to all the other Town of Lexington Committees to answer questions and seek support, and held information sessions, including with the League of Women Voters, posted all its meetings on the local cable TV website for on-demand viewing, and had detailed FAQs, slides and a video on the Town website."

"Myth-busting" helps bring affordable housing to Peterborough


Numerous business owners spoke in favor of an affordable housing development during a public hearing in Peterborough, NH

Goal: Attract workforce housing Success: A developer that has proposed a 116-unit development that includes as much as 20 percent of those units as workforce housing. Reason for success? Peterborough’s Affordable Housing Committee played a large role in getting the project off the ground. Danica Melone, Peterborough town planner, said the committee worked to disseminate the information needed to "myth-bust." That included “creating elevator pitches, rallying support from businesses, and assisting developers with funding sources.”

Fitchburg, Massachusetts officials are working to encourage more people to live downtown

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Construction was completed last year on 44-unit mixed-income development at Moran Square in the city’s downtown. Twenty units will be affordable to households earning less than 60% of the area median income. with five units further restricted for extremely low-income households.

Goal: Fitchburg, Massachusetts officials are working to encourage more people to live downtown. “We’re recognizing that there’s a great need for housing, we want to encourage it, and we want people to live in our downtown,” said Liz Murphy, Fitchburg’s Executive Director of Community Development and Planning. Success: the city allowed for more density downtown and reduced parking space requirements, resulting in greater interest from developers. One example is the city's partnership with the Fitchburg Art Museum to transform historic buildings into 68 units of “artist-preference housing.” Reason for success: Fitchburg has leaned heavily on partnering with stakeholders, including Fitchburg State University, the state, and the city’s housing authority. Murphy said that maintaining all those partnerships has been crucial because “you can’t have all your eggs in one basket; you need multiple baskets.”

Nominate a success story

Do you know a community in New England that has demonstrated strong and innovative leadership in providing new housing opportunities? Submit your housing success story nomination here:

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