SCARBOROUGH – It has taken six years, but plans to build affordable housing in Scarborough are finally close to becoming reality, town officials say.

The town has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland on the “75 Broadturn Road Housing Initiative,” a project to provide opportunities for town employees and other low- and middle-income earners to buy homes in one of Greater Portland’s most expensive communities.

The 17-unit development will be built on land the town bought in 2006 from the Maine Turnpike Authority for $200,000. The neighborhood will be just off Broadturn Road, near Saratoga Lane.

The subdivision is the largest undertaken by the local Habitat for Humanity. The organization will start construction this fall on an eight-unit subdivision in Freeport; other recent subdivision projects averaged about three houses.

The plan will go to the Scarborough Planning Board this fall, and construction is expected to start next spring.

Scarborough has a “severe shortage” of single-family homes that are affordable to first-time buyers and most town employees, according to an affordable housing needs analysis commissioned by the Scarborough Housing Alliance.

Scarborough is one of the most expensive towns in the area in which to build or own a home, pricing out town employees and people who work in the lowest-paying job sectors, such as retail, according to the study.

Town Manager Tom Hall said the 20-acre parcel on Broadturn Road was acquired for two purposes: work force housing and land conservation. Roughly 5 acres will be used for the housing development, and the rest on the land will be placed in a conservation easement.

Hall said he is excited to finally begin to address the shortage of affordable housing in town, where a 1-acre lot costs about $100,000.

“I would venture to say this is the single most important issue facing the town as I look to the future. It’s been an issue for decades, but it’s becoming more acute,” he said.

Melissa Murphy, chairwoman of the Scarborough Housing Alliance, said building affordable housing in Scarborough is “the right thing to do,” especially since the study showed the gap between incomes and the cost of homes.

“It became apparent a typical town employee couldn’t afford to buy a house in the town of Scarborough,” she said.

Steve Bolton, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland, said details for the project are still being settled, but current plans call for a total of 17 housing units.

About half will be sold under the traditional Habitat model, in which the buyer volunteers to build houses and finances the purchase through the organization. The other half will be sold through a real estate agent to people who qualify by having income of 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.

To qualify through the traditional Habitat model, buyers can earn no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income.

The neighborhood will include a mix of three-bedroom, single-family homes and duplexes. The duplexes will be styled to look like traditional New England farmhouses, with one unit at the front of the building and a second in an “ell” off the back, Bolton said.

Habitat for Humanity will act as the developer, paying project costs through fundraising, grants and money from sales of half of the units. The town will help offset that cost by donating the land and using an $80,000 Community Development Block Grant to extend sewer and water lines to the site.

Building the road into the development will cost about $600,000. Habitat for Humanity builds houses for around $130,000, Bolton said. He expects the Scarborough project to take several years to complete.

Bolton said Habitat will begin applying for grants as soon as it signs a memorandum of understanding with the town regarding the project. Hall expects that agreement to be approved next month by the Town Council, which has already expressed support for the project.

“We’ve done a lot of small subdivisions,” Bolton said. “Now we’re ready to step it up a little more.”

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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