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  • Bangor Daily News

    No, straight Mainers won’t be barred from this LGBTQ+ housing project

    By Zara Norman,

    25 days ago

    A Portland housing complex that will include integrated services aimed at the LGBTQ+ community made the rounds in conservative media this week.

    “LGBT-Only Housing Planned for Portland,” read a headline from The Maine Wire , a media arm of the conservative Maine Policy Institute.

    “The only qualification is that you have to be LGBTQ,” the far-right Libs of TikTok account wrote on X last week, asking how such a thing was legal.

    Indeed, it would violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws to prevent anyone from living there based on gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s why builders are not using that to bar anyone from living there.

    The $15 million, 54-unit complex is expected to open in spring 2026 adjacent to the Equality Community Center in downtown Portland. The joint venture by that group and MaineHousing, the state’s housing authority, will provide affordable residences to low-income seniors.

    “The only thing that distinguishes this project from other older adult properties is that it is located adjacent to the Equality Community Center,” Scott Thistle, a spokesperson for MaineHousing, wrote in an email statement. “Any reporting that describes this development as being restricted to serve a specific population beyond age is inaccurate.”

    An online interest form for the housing complex states that the complex is for the LGBTQ+ community and “their allies.” But the housing complex is open to all, said Chris O’Connor, the center’s executive director. Residents will be expected to agree to standards that ask them to make sure “everyone feels welcomed and safe here,” he said.

    The only pre-qualifications are that all but 11 units are income-restricted to those earning at most 60 percent of Portland’s area median income, O’Connor said. For a one-person household, that’s someone who makes $49,740 a year.

    The remaining 11 units will serve those living with disabilities, which includes those living with HIV or AIDS . They will be restricted to those making up to 30 percent of Portland’s area median income.

    The Equality Community Center will offer services to tenants that might have an “LGBT spin” to them, O’Connor said. Programming isn’t set yet, but those might include film screenings that center LGBTQ+ stories, educational panels that raise awareness about LGBTQ+ history or public health issues and maybe even some “drag bingo,” he said. Support services, which also include on-site health care, transportation services and fitness classes, will be open to all.

    “You don’t have to check your card at the door,” O’Connor joked. “Everything we offer at the center will be open to the entire community.”

    The project was one of four approved to receive a low-income housing tax credit from MaineHousing in September 2023, Thistle said. Other sources of funding include Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credits, a commercial bank loan and a tax-sheltering agreement with the city, according to the center’s website .

    Online backlash to the project erupted last week after a News Center Maine feature highlighted the project and the center began to promote the venture at Pride Month parades.

    Research has shown that the LGBTQ+ community faces higher rates of poverty, homelessness and and lower rates of homeownership than non-LGBTQ+ people. The idea for the project came out of a general need for affordable housing statewide and conversations with LGBTQ+ Mainers about feeling unwelcome where they live because of discrimination, O’Connor said.

    Explicitly LGBTQ+-friendly living has already proved to be a hit among Mainers. The “interest list” for the units has already garnered more than 170 responses, O’Connor said, which has buoyed him given the backlash and false information circulating about the project.

    “We want to be able to provide a place where everyone is welcome, but everyone is guaranteed the ability to live free of that fear and free of that discrimination,” O’Connor said.

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