If Rockland voters want our city to be a year round community we absolutely must address the housing crisis. Everywhere I look, employers are desperate for workers, but where are workers supposed to live when there’s barely any affordable housing? Health care workers, mechanics, police, fire fighters, teachers, public works employees, restaurant workers and other working people keep this town running, teach our children and keep us safe and healthy. If we want to maintain the services they provide, our elected leaders need to make affordable housing a top priority.

I’ve been disappointed in some of my conversations with certain municipal leaders in the Midcoast about this problem. Some say, “Well, the Midcoast is a desirable place to live. People with lower income jobs should just move further inland to find more affordable housing.” This argument is not only elitist and dismissive, but it’s also just bad policy. The housing crisis is a nationwide problem, not just in Maine and Rockland, so we can’t just ignore it. Besides, workers aren’t going to commute long distances to Rockland if they can earn better wages in the larger cities.

In addition, if we want more business investment in Rockland to lower property taxes, we need a larger workforce to attract them because having a skilled labor pool is a key factor in why businesses choose to relocate to certain areas. Right now we just don’t have a reliable workforce to meet current staffing needs. According to a recent report by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, Freddie Mac, migration patterns show that people are moving to destinations based on where they can find affordable housing.

I’ve been very impressed with Rockland City Council candidate Penny York, who has made housing affordability a key policy priority. Both she and Councilor Nate Davis fully grasp the magnitude of this problem are working on creative solutions to address it. York supports working with the newly formed Midcoast Housing Trust to establish more affordable housing options in the Midcoast. Both York and Davis have pledged to reactivate municipal grant programs to make more affordable rentals available. Councilor Nate Davis also led an important effort to reduce outdated zoning regulations to allow for more apartment density in certain areas. Both candidates are very thoughtful, inquisitive and open minded to new ideas.

I urge Rockland residents to vote for both Penny York and Nate Davis on Nov. 8 so they can work to ensure more working class people, our children and grandchildren will be able to afford to live here and raise families.

Andy O’Brien