Municipalities across the state were granted a reprieve last week when LD 1706 was signed into law, extending the deadline for towns and cities to bring their local housing ordinances into compliance with LD 2003, the affordable housing legislation passed last year.
Originally, municipalities only had until July 1, 2023 to figure out how to incorporate the bill’s mandates into their existing local ordinances.
In light of LD 1706, however, “municipalities for which ordinances may be enacted by the municipal officers without further action or approval by the voters of the municipality” have until January 1, 2024 to make the necessary changes, and all other municipalities have until July 1, 2024.
LD 2003 imposed a number of one-size fits-all requirements on municipalities statewide with the stated goal of increasing the availability of affordable housing.
Among the changes set in motion by the bill were the effective elimination of single-family residential zoning and the universal allowance of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) alongside existing single-family homes.
The bill also required that affordable housing developments be permitted a density 2.5 times that which would otherwise be allowed in a given location.
The bill stated that affordable housing developments are only required to provide two parking spaces for every three units constructed. Similarly, the bill prevented ADUs from being subjected to parking availability requirements beyond those already in place for the lot on which they are constructed.
Earlier this year, two other bills were introduced to mitigate some of the concerns related to LD 2003, but neither was able to get off the ground.
LD 665, which the Committee on Housing rejected in early May, would have extended the deadline for municipalities to implement these changes to July of 2025.
Testimony from Rebecca Graham of the Maine Municipal Association (MMA) offered in support of the bill that “the date of July 1, 2023 was established in statute without a proper understanding of the due process responsibilities for municipal ordinance adoption.”
“LD 665 simply allows all the rest of Maine to catch up with resources, and technical support firmly in place to establish defendable ordinances, create community buy-in for the effort and make sure they are not using additional resources to run special town meetings for that purpose,” she said.
Another bill, LD 214, would have adjusted the terms of LD 2003 such that it would only affect municipalities with a population greater than 10,000. In late May, however, the Committee on Housing voted to amend the threshold to 4,000. Both chambers of the Legislature voted to kill the bill last week.
Stephanie Anderson, member of the Cape Elizabeth Housing Diversity Committee, testified in support of the original version of the bill, stating that LD 2003 was inhospitable to Maine’s more rural communities.
“LD 2003 imposed urban and one-size fits all solutions on rural communities and divested the smaller towns of the right and the responsibility to provide housing with ordinances and strategies that are conducive to housing diversity and affordability in their communities,” she said.
Others representing Maine’s smaller, more rural areas also testified in support of this measure, including the Town Manager and Code Official for Holden Benjamin Breadmore and member of the Lovell Planning Board Andrew Brosnan.
With both of these measures having been taken off the table by the Legislature, all of Maine’s municipalities must update their local ordinances to comply with the mandates outlined in LD 2003 sooner rather than later.
As a result of LD 1706, however, they will now have until 2024 to finalize the required adjustments.