Experts say Maine needs more housing, more workers to build it
BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Maine may be experiencing a new estate boom, in some areas, and the Maine Real Estate and Development Association (MEREDA) says many parts of the state need to build more housing to meet the demand.
The group issued a report Thursday, saying its index of real estate demand is almost back to the level of 2006, the height of the last big sales boom. They say there is a lot of housing construction happening especially around the state’s urban centers, and that more new housing is needed.
But the report also says the shortage of workers in the building trades is making it harder for builders to meet that increased demand, and may actually be driving prices even higher. Builders say they can’t find enough workers and agree it slows their ability to produce more new homes.
Longtime builder Dana Smith of Coastal Carpentry in Brunswick said he is dealing with the labor problem.
"It's very tough, I’ve had an ad in the paper and craigslist and don’t get much response," he said. Smith said he doesn't think the problem is pay, since he starts an inexperienced worker at $15 to $16 per hour, plus benefits. He and others say people seem to have lost interest in the building trades.
Paul Peck, a Portland attorney and developer who is the current president of MEREDA, said people in his business are concerned the worker shortage poses a serious problem to growth, and development of more affordable housing.
"We have few trades people. We need more people into the industry so labor costs can go down and we can build more affordable," he said.
A MEREDA spokesperson said the labor cost reference was not about reducing salaries of construction workers. Instead, she said the goal is to expand the number of workers in the building trades, so projects can be built more quickly, saving money and reducing total costs. Peck said MEREDA is working with the community colleges and legislature to encourage programs to recruit more people to the trades.