MAINE AFFORDABLE HOUSING CONFERENCE
The 2017 Maine Affordable Housing conference brought together a diverse group of people, businesses, and organizations from the housing and healthcare fields. PDT’s Marilyn Levian and Ben Winschel were both present at the conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Lead. Assist. Empower,” and focused on the importance of providing affordable, quality housing and services to those in need.
The day started with opening remarks from John Gallagher, director of MaineHousing, followed by the first of three workshop breakouts. Attendees had five different options to choose from for each workshop breakout. Topics included everything from telemedicine, energy efficiency, universal design, and tenants with mental illness to housing cooperatives and tiny house communities. Maine Housing managed to bring together a truly diverse group of panelists ranging from policy makers to investors, architects, and healthcare professionals, all of whom were passionate about providing healthy and affordable housing in Maine.
A highlight of the conference was hearing Senator Susan Collins speak with true sincerity and conviction regarding the need to address Maine’s aging population through housing that combats isolation and loneliness. With nearly 20% of Maine’s population over the age of 65, it is a real issue amongst our aging communities.
The need to address our aging population was brought up in other seminars that I attended–one of which was “Concepts of Universal Design.” A good portion of the workshop focused on what “aging in place” is, and what that means in terms of universal design. Eighty-seven percent of adults 65 and older prefer to age in place, but our homes are not designed for this to happen. Either homes need to be adapted to fit the changing needs of their inhabitants, or elderly people are forced to move. The message is clear; all homes need to be designed to be both accessible and adaptable. As Jill Johanning so eloquently said, “Good design enables, bad design disables.”
--Ben Winschel, architectural designer, PDT Architects