Erin Cooperrider and her Public-Private Conflict of Interest
The democratic process is slipping away before our eyes.
Politicians always have a calibrated reason why the public should do what they want. In example, the reason why the Boothbay Center has a traffic circle in the middle of a once unproblematic road is that the Peninsula leadership colluded in a narrative about an out-of-the-way four-way stop being highly dangerous, claiming that some glided past the stop signs at high speeds. Despite no history of incidents, something had to be done about the dangerous intersection. The solution was to reroute the roads around the Center so that they all converge in a circle at the soon-to-be-developed entrance to the country club, replacing stop signs with yield signs so that gliding through the intersection became legal but more dangerous due to the increased traffic volume, trusting that with time and distractions the public will forget the original premise.
Paul Coulombe, the owner of the club financed a third of the cost. The Department of Transportation's terms of agreement puts the private investor in charge of the design.
Thereafter Mr. Coulombe bulldozed over every building he could buy that blocked the view of the club and made donations to improve the Town Common so that the Common and adjacent Town Office seamlessly blended into the landscaped hillside. Miraculously, the country club became the optical center of the town.
Today the narrative used to sell concentrated housing developments in every Maine municipality is the housing shortage but the housing shortage is not the problem, it is the symptom of wealth inequality moving beyond the tipping point. Wealth inequality is mathematically calibrated to compartmentalize economic classes housed in designated development projects. As all classes are qualified by a percentage of the median income, the projects cannot solve the current problem, that working for a living no longer includes affording a place to live, especially not in a rapidly gentrifying community like the Boothbay Peninsula. The vanishing working classes currently needed by the community qualify for low-income housing while the new “workforce” affordable housing targets affordable housing, mathematically beyond the reach of the Peninsula’s dwindling working classes, and will continue to be so as long as the median continues to escalate at the rate it has been for the last decade.
The new and mysterious Boothbay Region Development Corporation is not solving current housing shortages but is targeting a larger gentrification design, with three main pieces, The eighty-million-dollar school, with our educational system repurposed as industrial training by the Industrial Partnerships Act of 2013, the Industrial Park where corporations can be lured by taxpayer-funded workforce training and facilities at the public educational system, starting as early as secondary school, and the Boothbay Region Development Corporation’s plans to develop a concentrated housing zone for the workforce, a term which signifies workers as assets of a corporation and excludes workers who work for themselves, toward whom Town Selectmen have historically taken a hostile approach, closing small entrepreneurs down when they can, or at least threatening to do so.
The housing shortage cannot be attributed to an increased population, not locally, and not nationally. Here’s the data:
The nation’s population was 328,239,523 in 2019, growing by 0.5% between 2018 and 2019, or 1,552,022 people. Annual growth peaked at 0.73% in the period between 2014 and 2015. The growth between 2018 and 2019 is a continuation of a multiyear slowdown since that period. US Census
The U.S. population grew at the slowest pace in history in 2021, according to census data released last week. That news sounds extreme, but it’s on trend. First came 2020, which saw one of the lowest U.S. population-growth rates ever. And now we have 2021 officially setting the all-time record. The Atlantic
In 2008 Boothbay's Population was 3,217 source
Most recent Boothbay census data puts the population at 3,003 source
Total Population From 1990 to 2010, Boothbay experienced both an increase in total population (Table A.1), and a decrease in natural population, which is measured by subtracting total deaths from total births (Table A.2). This means that Boothbay’s population increase is due to migration, or people moving into town. This trend was particularly pronounced from 2000 to 2009, when the town might have lost population if not for an in-migration of 239 people. source
A similar report for the years since 2009 was not to be found, but it is established that the population of Boothbay decreased.
And yet- Housing shortages have increased!
Up For Growth (UFG), a nonprofit membership organization which was “founded to elevate and amplify the need for solutions” to the housing issue, recently published a report on the state of housing supply in the United States. It was sponsored by numerous entities like the Amazon Housing Equity Fund, Habitat for Humanity, the Walton Family Foundation, and the National Association of Realtors.
Summarizing the report’s findings, the authors note that “with 3.8 million homes short of meeting housing needs, double the number from 2012, the nation is in an extreme state of Housing Underproduction™.” Nearly every state in the union faces this challenge. From 2012 to 2019, the housing deficit became more severe in 230 metropolitan areas, and only 25 regions saw their housing deficit shrink. UFG Report on “Housing Under Production”
The cause of the housing shortage is discovered to be underproduction!
Yes! The latest cause of housing shortages to be identified by politicians is “underproduction” -a cause emerging out of thin air, as long as the narrative avoids the underlying reason why 2012 is the point of comparison. Airbnb was founded in August 2008. It took a few years to build the industry up.
According to Maine Wire, Maine was short by approximately 9,000 units in 2019, up from about 2,300 units in 2012, by a study on housing underproduction released by Up for Growth, a national housing affordability research and company group, but there was a catch- 8000 thousand of the units in the production schedule are for South Portland.
And so the political narrative calls for a state-wide take-over of municipal ordinances because there is a big need in Portland, not entirely misplaced because I hear that the reason there are so many homeless persons in Portland, is because Portland at least offers services for the homeless and so the homeless flock to Portland from other towns in Southern Maine.
HP 1489 (LD 2003) deems that every municipality in Maine must establish a “priority zone” which is a zone where low-income and affordable housing can be concentrated at 2.5 the density of the surrounding area. The newly announced Boothbay Region Development Corporation has decided that affordable housing at 3.5 the density of the surrounding area makes for an even better “density benefit”, and misses the mark to an even greater degree in solving the underlying problem- which cannot be done by recreating urban housing during the Industrial Revolution when living spaces got smaller, taller, and more tightly packed together and polluted.
HP 1489 forbids, on a state-wide basis, ordinances prohibiting overcrowding or establishing community character as if mandating closely packed housing developments for every Maine community does not impact community character, state-wide.
Production is relevant to a purpose or a plan, created by someone or something. What is the purpose or plan by which we create and measure underproduction of housing as our population is shrinking? It’s not measured by the number of people that need housing, it’s brought about by the rapidly transforming division in the quality of life, and wealth distribution. Wealth inequality is manifesting as ownership class vs the working class. The ownership class needs the workers as much as the workers need their own home, owned by the worker, not by the employer or another corporation.
The Boothbay Region Development Corporate does not deliver on the dream, nor does corporate culture, as it once did before the wealth divide grew so wide that the dream fell into the abyss. The affordable workforce housing development planned by the Boothbay Region Development Corporation is for the corporate culture the planners envision for this water-challenged Peninsula.
Instead of responding to the move toward greater self-determination coming from “the workforce”, the Boothbay Region Development Corporation proposes a very controlled housing situation but the working class has had it with being controlled by the hegemony. The hegemony has no clue about what transpires within the working classes because the hegemony never engages with the workforce. It doesn’t need to because the hegemony believes what is best for the workforce is what is best for the hegemony, so it just needs to know what is best for itself.
How is a discussion about housing shortages possible without mentioning Airbnb, a rapidly expanding industry that expands only in one place, residential homes? It was a specific choice of the Commissioners who wrote the framework (Appendix Q of the study) that became LD 2003, to leave all considerations of short-term rentals out of the study. In Appendix P, titled List of Suggested Recommendations from Commission Members, Commissioner Totman suggested requiring municipalities to establish limitations on Airbnb residences, but in Appendix Q short-term rentals are excluded from the study by claiming a deeper study is required, thus reducing the problem to “underproduction”.
Appendix P has many considered ideas from Commissioner Levine, Speaker Fecteau, Commissioner Hill, Commissioner Totman, Commissioner Dufour, Commissioner Jackson, Commissioner Golek, Representative Arata, Commissioner Spaulding, and Director Brennan but none from Commissioner Cooperrider. We can get an idea of where those who made suggestions stand but do not have that insight into Ms. Cooperrider.
Appendix Q is titled Proposed Framework from Commissioners by Erin Cooperrider, Dana Totman and Jeff Levine and is a concisely written framework and placed last before the texts of the public law, appearing to be the end result of the discussion in Appendix P. Here we see that Erin Cooperrider plays a major decisive role in influencing the legislation despite being absent in Appendix P.
After the fact, Erin Cooperrider became VP of the mysterious Boothbay Region Development Corporation, a nonprofit applying to the Town for public funding to develop a priority zone. Erin Cooperrider is also a principal in the New Horizons Group, developers who are working on a similar project in Rockport.
Other than what is published in the Boothbay Register, there is no public record of the Boothbay Region Development Corporation, not in the State corporate listing, or the IRS, ProPublica, or Guidestar, and yet the Town selectmen have awarded the Boothbay Region Development corporation fifty thousand dollars in public funding. This is a careless way to award funding which I imagine is explained by a behind-the-scenes Town government that functions as an insider’s club. The Boothbay Region Development Corporation is targeting public funding for forty percent of its capitalization, without the public knowing, to date, how the corporation is structured nor what the terms of the agreement are with the private investors.
Curiously missing from the study council is Coastal Enterprises Incorporated. Recently, CEI formed a for-profit subsidiary with Boulos Reality to develop a 200-bed-per-room homeless person warehouse in an industrial opportunity zone in Portland, Maine. In developers’ speak, a 200-bed per-room homeless shelter is a fine “density benefit”, for the developer, not necessarily for the inhabitant’s well-being, but BRDC or CEI-Boulos does not operate within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs paradigm.
In Maslow’s paradigm, people need personal space to realize their potential. This is a subject that Lewis Munford explores in great detail in The Culture of the Cities. In the corporate State centrally managed paradigm, only the top of the wealth totem pole needs opportunity and self-actualization. During covid when the world was shut down, the “workforce” had time for reflection and that brought about social change. Mass self-reflection became the great resignation, quiet quitting, and a rejection of the corporate culture.
The workforce does not want to be owned and controlled but the housing development that the Boothbay Region Development Corporation is developing is a controlled community beginning with LD 2003 that takes away local choice over housing density and community character and opens the door for this project. Now a significant influencer of that legislation, Erin Cooperrider, is the VP of the Boothbay Development Corporation and it wants the public to fund its agenda, a concentrated housing development that the corporation will own, for the most part. Even home ownership in subsidized communities has extra rules that apply. (This is a link to Mount Desert Island Housing Trust Affordability Covenants but since I posted the link in a previous article it has become insecure and I could no longer find those covenants)
Erin Cooperrider “served 17 years as Development Director for Community Housing of Maine (CHOM), a statewide affordable housing developer, helping to grow the organization’s asset base from $5 million to more than $100 million using low-income housing tax credits, state and federal historic tax credits, grants, loans, and private equity.” CHOM is listed as a subsidiary on CEI’s 990 report.
The wealth divide is morphing into an ownership class and a renters class. Non-profits are a big part of the ownership class that acquires massive real estate assets on which they pay no property taxes. My first response to reading LD 2003 was that the priority zones are a sitting duck for corporate ownership sold on the stock exchange from which the act fails to protect Maine citizens. Non-profits are also corporations, not traded on the stock market, but rich, powerful, and controlling, so controlling that they can draft the laws that govern themselves, as is the case with Erin Cooperrider. Not only do non-profits aggressively accumulate real estate assets but they use public money to do so, not merely private giving. Funding suggestions are included in the Commissioner’s framework for LD 2003.
BRDC will continue as landowner beyond the buildout and current leadership because of investment in land and infrastructure, said Cooperrider. (an investment that will be 40% financed by public funds) Homes and rentals will be subject to a homeowners association which will have some control over the property and BRDC control through deed restrictions, purchase and resale oversight and other mechanisms now under investigation; apartments will be managed by a professional company, she said. source
The Boothbay Region Development Corporation’s project is an expansion of central management into the private lives of the individual using a problem created by decades of central management policies that furthered the non-lapsing expansion of the wealth divide ultimately removing attainable homeownership from the working classes. Now the agency driving the wealth divide uses the lack of housing affordable for the working classes as the driving narrative for further expansion of central management into our lives through ownership or control of working-class homes. However, the ownership class needs the productivity of the workforce and services provided by essential workers as much as the working classes need homes. The working classes should not give up on a path to ownership, they should demand it.
The real estate assets accumulated by non-profits really belong to the working classes. They earned it. They are the tax base from which funds distributed to non-profit and for-profit corporations are derived since one way or another most of the corporations involved manage to be tax-exempt.
Since the buildout will take about a decade, Cooperrider said there will be hurdles in development, namely density; the project is designed for 162 units which exceeds the local maximum by 47 units. However, recent legislation, LD 2003, has opened up potential for changes in housing limits and metrics, Coopperrider said. “This plan shows 3.5% density bonus for affordable housing, so three and a half times what’s allowed currently” Selectmen get housing development presentation
(commentary and emphasis by author)
The primary purpose served by residential housing development production is to make room for the expansion of the Airbnb industry, an industry that is changing the nature of society into an ownership class versus a contributor class, or at least escalating the rate of change. Former residential communities are being repurposed as Airbnb resorts that need “essential workers”. The solution, according to the State of Maine that profits from a 9% sales tax on the Airbnb industry, is concentrated housing zones where residential dwellings can be packed at a suggested 2.5 the density of the surrounding area. With that as the production plan, what name should be given to this new era of city planning?
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