Lawmakers, affordable housing developers and advocates visited the University of Maine Friday to learn how the state’s leading university is promoting housing and food security through research, innovation and partnerships.

The day-long summit that showcased solutions to one of the state’s major challenges was organized by UMaine and the University of Maine System in partnership with the Legislature’s Housing and Homelessness Caucus and MaineHousing.

It included a tour of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC), where research is underway under founding director Habib Dagher to use Maine wood and the world’s largest 3D printer to help develop affordable housing. In the face of labor and supply shortages, the innovative process will reduce labor and material needs and costs compared to standard construction, while improving the sustainability and availability of housing for those who need it.

A new Green Engineering and Materials plant is planned for the future to expand the Compound Center’s world-leading work in biomaterials development. Already, $35 million in federal funding for the project, which is expected to begin in 2023, has been secured by a Maine congressional delegation led by Senator Susan Collins, and the Mills administration has allocated $15 million through Maine Jobs and Recovery. Plan.

Photo of Maine lawmakers attending the ASCC tour
Chief Operational Engineer Evan Gilman, right, gives an overview of innovation at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Vehicles Center (ASCC) for 3D printing of bio-based housing as founding director Habib Dagher looks on during Friday’s tour that included lawmakers from the housing and homelessness pool , affordable housing developers.


Visitors also heard from researchers at the UMaine Center on Aging about the housing and health needs of older Mainers, and how technology, smart engineering, and technical assistance from the university can help communities become more livable across the lifespan—including allowing Mainers to age in the place.

explained President Juan Ferrini Mundi, who is also the university’s vice president for research and innovation.

“We are grateful for the investment by state and federal policymakers and the public that allows us to innovate and partner to improve Maine’s future, as we demonstrated Friday. From manufacturing cost-critical housing to sustainable agriculture to delivering rural health care, the strengths lie in our research and development In areas that matter most to Maine and can help make this the best case to live, work and learn,”

Participating lawmakers came from eight counties. Statewide housing providers such as Community Housing of Maine and local community housing authorities, including Bath and Biddeford, as well as nonprofit health and social services organizations such as Amistad, Preble Street and Penobscot Community Health Care, also attended.

“I believe Maine can lead the way in solving housing challenges through creative solutions. I wanted to bring the people working on housing, homelessness and affordable housing policy to see how UMaine innovations can help our work,” said Rep. Victoria Morales of South Portland, who chairs Housing and Homelessness Caucus and helped organize the visit, “Together we are developing tools to increase the supply of housing to meet demand in Maine.”

“To grow our economy and sustain rural communities like the ones I represent in Washington and Hancock counties, workers and families in Maine must have access to safe and affordable housing and food. It has been fascinating to see firsthand how the University of Maine is developing solutions and providing direct assistance to address these important issues, and university leaders sharing the needs that we see in our districts that they can help with,” Senator Marian said. Moore, from Calais, who attended on Friday.

Dan Brennan, Maine’s director of housing, said innovations that make building construction more efficient will be an important component of closing the housing gap in Maine and the United States.

“This homegrown technology coming from our University of Maine is something we can all really be proud of,” Brennan said. “It not only puts our state at the forefront of the pack in solving the housing crisis, it will also directly make housing more achievable and affordable for thousands of families in Maine.”

The group also went to Rogers Farm in Old Town, a university research site where crops are grown as part of it Permaculture Research, UMaine Cooperative Extension has education projects, and donates to area food pantries and shelters through the Maine Harvest for Hunger Program.

Harvest for Hunger, operated by UMaine Extension, helps home, school and commercial growers contribute additional fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need in their communities, a process known as aggregation. Since the program’s inception in 2000, more than 3.3 million pounds of produce have been donated. More information is available at extension.umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger. The Extension’s Expanded Nutrition and Nutrition Education Program serving low-income earners was also reviewed during the visit.

Black Bear Exchange, UMaine’s on-campus food and clothing store, also receives products through the program and was highlighted Friday as part of a university-led discussion on its efforts to meet students’ basic needs and achieve social mobility through affordable access to the highest education.

Last month after supplemental appropriations from Legislature and Governor Janet Mills, UMS trustees voted to keep tuition in the state flat for the seventh time in a decade to help Maine students and their families recover from the economic impact of the pandemic and in the face of inflation. Additionally, since the start of the pandemic, Maine public universities have given students more than $55 million in emergency aid provided through three federal relief packages.

Contact: Margaret Nagel, nagle@main.edu