Residents in Portland, Maine, are facing a single issue to their cost of living that makes residing there almost beyond the reach of most people. “People are very surprised to learn that the cost of living here is so high,” says Amy Beveridge, the news director for WMTW, Hearst’s ABC affiliate.
Residents in Portland, a coastal city in Maine, are facing a single issue to their cost of living that makes residing there almost beyond the reach of most people.
The challenge is one associated with cities like Austin, Texas; Los Angeles; and other major metros that are experiencing rapid uncontrolled growth.
But not one most people would think of as a problem in the 79th market in the country, known for commercial fishing, lighthouses and cold winters.
“People are very surprised to learn that the cost of living here is so high,” says Amy Beveridge, the news director for WMTW, Hearst’s ABC affiliate.
The issue even surprised Beveridge, a 15-year resident of the city.
“Looking at data, one of the things that was most surprising to me was just in the last couple of years, the median income considered to be needed to afford a home in Maine has grown nearly exponentially,” she says. “People here just don’t make that much money. That really was incredibly surprising to me.”
Beveridge says Portland is drawing a lot of people from out of state who can work remotely, “and live here where the quality of life is nice. It’s a huge tourist destination, with great restaurants right on the coast. All of that is attractive.”
Beveridge says people she’s hired have moved back their start date because they weren’t able to find a place to live.
WMTW investigated the issue in an hour-long special that aired in primetime on Sept. 12.
And although the station had been reporting on the problem, the idea for the special came from a new employee who was blown away by the cost of renting an apartment in Portland, Beveridge says.
You can’t find a one-bedroom apartment for less than $2,000 a month, she says.
The situation is so bad that a local ski resort bought a bed and breakfast that they are converting into housing for their employees.
“Everybody is affected by it in the newsroom,” Beveridge says, adding that the idea of an investigative special dovetailed with the station’s goal of increasing its investigative tone throughout the newsroom.
“Sometimes it can be easy for reporters to just tell the story, this person said this, this person said that,” she says.
Beveridge wants to get beyond just what happened, but to find solutions, too.
“That is how we hope to bring our investigations to the next level,” she says.
Beveridge says the housing special presented the problems while offering solutions and opportunities, too.
“Everybody on the team had some hand in putting it together,” she says. “I am just really proud of the team on the special. This is what local news is at its best.”