State treasurer Poliquin takes aim at MaineHousing

State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin — the newest member of MaineHousing’s board of directors — is not afraid to speak candidly about the state housing authority he now represents or point out projects that he feels are a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Earlier this week, Poliquin visited a Bangor radio station and brought up — unprompted — a MaineHousing project in Portland that was being built at nearly double the cost per unit as the average Maine home price. He used that example as one of the reasons the state’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability is right to begin looking into MaineHousing’s operations.

Only a few hours after Poliquin appeared on the radio, a MaineHousing staff member told members of the state’s new Blue Ribbon Commission on Affordable Housing that the treasurer was misleading in his comment.

“Despite what you may have heard on the radio this morning, MaineHousing said no to $314,000 a unit,” said Adam Krea, MaineHousing’s Deputy Director.

Krea also said that the high cost was high for a reason. The project involved renovation a historic property and was subject to additional requirements in order to preserve the property.

Either way, though, the project was rejected.

Poliquin said the project was only rejected because he and other board members balked at the cost. MaineHousing representatives disputed that claim and said the project stalled before Poliquin joined the board.

In an interview with Maine Public Broadcasting, the loquacious state treasurer said he didn’t care if the project was funded in part through tax credits.

“It’s still tax money — some comes from Portland, some comes from the feds, some comes from the state of Maine,” he said. “It’s all tax money, we’re all taxpayers–this is really unacceptable.”

This week’s comment was not the first time Poliquin has been publicly critical of MaineHousing. At a forum last week in Waldo County, the treasurer had this to say:

“Until last week, I was one of 10 board members. As these board members and as the authorities are terming out, we’re breaking the news to them very gently that they will not be reappointed. They all serve at the pleasure of the governor, and we are reappointing new board members who are business folks (for the most part) with no conflicts of interest … ” he said. “So, the good news ma’am is that we have adults involved, the cavalry has arrived, and we are being dead serious about wisely spending taxpayer dollars.”