A commission formed to examine barriers to building housing in Maine is recommending eliminating single-family zoning, allowing homeowners to build in-law apartments as a matter of right and removing local caps on new housing production, among other things.

The Commission to Increase Housing Opportunities in Maine by Studying Zoning and Land Use Restrictions met for the seventh and final time Dec. 2, finalizing its recommendations to state lawmakers in a nearly six-hour meeting. The commission released its complete report on Tuesday, Dec. 28.

The recommendations, which also include providing technical and financial assistance to municipalities as they work to comply with any new state mandates, will go before the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee in January. State lawmakers will consider whether to offer any bills to implement any of the recommendations.

Commission co-chairs, House Speaker Ryan Fecteau and Sen. Craig Hickman, both Democrats, each has a placeholder bill to enact all or portions of the report.

“The next step will require a great deal of advocacy and work to convince (our) colleagues to ultimately throw their support behind what we ultimately put forward as a bill or bills,” Fecteau told commissioners. “I hope you will all be a part of that process.”

Two of the recommendations appear to be aimed at preventing affordable housing projects from being blocked based on neighborhood opposition, like the recent affordable housing development thwarted in Cape Elizabeth. It was the first affordable housing proposal in the affluent coastal town in a half a century.

Another recommendation would create a state appeals board, which could override a municipality’s denial of an affordable housing project before turning to the courts.

The 15-member commission was formed by a bill sponsored by Fecteau. It came after an analysis commissioned by the Greater Portland Council of Governments showed only 5% of the land in Portland, Falmouth, Westbrook, Gorham, Scarborough, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth is designated for multiunit apartments and condominiums. The report concluded restrictions meant to preserve community character and combat sprawl often have the opposite effect.

Apartments in Maine are becoming increasingly expensive, with one in five tenants paying more than half of their income for rent, according to the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition. A Mainer earning the minimum wage of $12.15 an hour can’t afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in any of the state’s 16 counties, the group says.

The commission’s report features nine recommendations, including a list of mandates and incentives aimed at reducing barriers for affordable housing and multiunit buildings. It is also expected to include a minority report, explaining the reasons why some commissioners opposed certain recommendations.

The commission tried to balance Maine’s tradition of strong local control with state mandates, recommending the state offer financial and technical assistance to municipalities that seek to review their land use laws and ordinances to make it easier to develop housing.

Kate Dufour, a legislative advocate for the Maine Municipal Association, said she initially felt like other commissioners were teaming up and placing too much blame on municipalities for the housing shortage, when state and federal policies also are to blame. By the end, Dufour felt the commission took the concerns of municipalities seriously, even if the report includes recommendations that could limit local control.

“I don’t want municipalities be set up for failure,” Dufour said while arguing for robust support, rather than penalties, for municipalities. “We need to look at why communities make the decisions they make. It’s not one size fits all.”

Dufour said the MMA opposed proposals to eliminate growth caps and to establish a state appeals board.

The commission also issued some informal recommendations, including a suggestion the state study how short-term rentals are impacting long-term housing supply and costs.

“Commissioners noted that the rapid growth of short-term rentals in Maine has taken existing housing stock out of the year-round rental pool, putting pressure on rental rates throughout the state,” the draft report states. “Although long-term impacts may not yet be known, there is evidence that short-term rentals are impacting the housing market.”

The recommendations include eliminating single-family zoning by allowing up to four residential units to be built on all lots, provided other health and safety requirements, such as minimum sewer and lot sizes, are met. The group also recommended allowing people to build in-law apartments, or accessory dwelling units, as a matter of right.

Those two recommendations alone could make a big difference, said Hannah Pingree, director of the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future.

“I think the addition of (accessory dwelling units) and this four-unit opportunity will make a big difference in towns,” Pingree said. “I think this is actually a very big step.”

Other recommendations include:

• Providing funding and technical assistance on zoning matters to municipalities looking to increase affordable housing, including reducing minimum lot sizes and relaxing parking requirements to increase diversity of housing sizes and types;

• Creating density bonuses throughout the state for low- and middle-income housing projects, provided the units remain affordable for a period of time;

• Establishing a three-year incentive plan for towns willing to review zoning and land use policies to encourage more housing opportunities; and

• Asking each town to designate a priority growth area that is located near community services.

The commission also included: Dana Totman, president and CEO of Avesta Housing; Jeff Levine, a former Portland planning director who now teaches urban studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sen. Matthew Pouliot, R-Kennebec County; Rep. Amy Arata, R-New Gloucester; Dan Brennan of the Maine State Housing Authority; Heather Spalding of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; construction industry representative John Napolitano; real estate broker Madeline Hill; Cheryl Golak, an advocate for low- and middle-income Mainers; and Anthony Jackson, an advocate for civil rights and racial justice.