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A Growing Phenomenon

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media, November 2013

"Housaminium" is a term not used in everyday conversation in Maine, but that may change. The origin of this word is not known but probably arose out of the condo-dense real estate regions such as Florida and Arizona. It refers to free-standing homes in a Home Owners Association (HOA) complex in which the condo unit owner owns both the interior and exrerior of the building while enjoying the benefits of the HOA's amenities.
This seems common enough, but what is changing is that the term "housaminium" is becoming more related to meeting the needs of empty nesters, affordable housing, young families, the elderly, and the disabled population. Their needs in the past were often planned to be handled by multi-family type of housing.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Maine with is nation-leading elderly population and a youth drain in full flood. The baby boomer wave is already putting a serious strain on the state's health care system and the forecasted effects of a growing retirees segment. Meanwhile, the state's higher education system is making radical changes to their college curriculums to hold on to a decreasing student body that is fleeing the state permanently in search of job opportunities and affordable housing.

"Patio Homes"

To address this problem, the word "housaminium" is continuing to pop up at planning board, city council, and community meetings. The most recent Auburn Comprehensive Plan specifically refers to "housaminiums" as one of the potential solutions for the city's future urban housing needs. These types of condo units are not the type found in more traditional suburban HOA complexes with large homes and two car garages; rather they are designed with modest footprints on one level. This type of design is sometimes called "patio homes" or simply "ranch'.
This one-level design is attractive to the elderly and empty nesters who wish to downsize and still have the feeling of home ownership, the mortgage interest tax benefits, and a safe location for visiting grandkids and family. These designs can incorporate wheelchair-friendly elements such as lower kitchen cabinets, lower door peepholes, and floor coverings and room layours for easy traverse.
Developers are recognizing the burgeoning population of active seniors is not just a niche but the next growth market for condo sales. 

Tourism and Rentals

Meanwhile, the "housaminium" concept continues to evolve in one of Maine's most lucrative industries: tourism. Many tourist destination communities have been creating strange ordinances to control seasonal HOAs. The town of Wells on the southern seacoast and Route I corridor is a classic example. The recent past has witnessed many of the original cottage grounds being converted into HOAs with the cottages owned by investors and the grounds owned and managed by an HOA.
In parallel with this phenomenon, many new cottage HOAs have been developed following the "housaminium" model with rental income a primary goal. This has forced the town to enact creative ordinances to not only prohibit year-round living to avoid a strain on the school system but also prohibit continuous living for more than 29 days to force turnover and increase tourist spending. The word "housaminiums," in its many forms, is here to stay. 

Senior Living in Saco 

A current example of a city-driven "housaminium" trend is the senior housing project planned for the city of Saco property near Diamond Riverside Park.