SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Housing Authority plans to build two projects – in the Knightville and Thornton Heights neighborhoods – that would add more than 100 affordable apartments to the city’s tight rental market.

Both projects – on Ocean Street in the downtown area and on Sunset Avenue on the west side of the city – require zoning changes and need financial backing before the authority can move forward, Executive Director Mike Hulsey said Wednesday. The authority has scheduled a public forum in each neighborhood next month, when staff members will present the project proposals and gather feedback from residents.

Hulsey said the projects would offer a combination of just-below-market-rate apartments and subsidized units, with an eye toward increasing the overall supply of rental housing in the city. In particular, the authority aims to shorten the wait for subsidized housing, which can range from two to three years for one- and two-bedroom apartments to six years for a three-bedroom apartment.

“Three-bedroom units are very hard to find and even if you find them, they’re very hard to pay for with a (subsidized housing) voucher,” Hulsey said. “Our goal is to keep the rents as low as possible. I feel if we can keep the rents below market rate, it will help stabilize the market.”

In Knightville, the authority plans to build a 48-unit, five-story apartment building at 51 Ocean St., a half-acre lot with a vacant one-story office building formerly occupied by Martin’s Point Health Care. The existing building would be torn down.

The new building would include ground-level parking and retail space, with 32 one-bedroom, 14 two-bedroom and two studio apartments above. A second phase containing 28 units would be built at 63 Ocean St., a quarter-acre lot with a smaller, one-story office building.

Both Ocean Street properties, which were listed for $1.8 million with CBRE/The Boulos Co., are under contract, Hulsey said. The smaller office building at 63 Ocean St. is currently leased to tenants under a two-year agreement that may be renewed, he said.

In Thornton Heights, the authority plans to build an additional 28 units at 131 Sunset Ave., a 3-acre vacant lot purchased last November for $185,000, according to city tax records. The project would consist of two buildings containing 14 units each, including two- and three-bedroom apartments.

Hulsey said he hopes to go before the Planning Board next month to request a zoning change for the Sunset Avenue site, which is zoned for single-family homes.

The Ocean Avenue project would require a change from the mixed-use village commercial zone, which limits buildings to four stories and 24 units per acre. Hulsey said he’s hoping the city will respond to growing interest among Knightville property owners and move to allow taller and larger housing projects similar to new zoning approved for the Mill Creek area next door.

Planning Director Tex Haeuser acknowledged that several property owners have asked city officials to loosen development restrictions in Knightville.

“We’ll have to see how the neighborhood is feeling about it and have some discussions with the City Council,” Haeuser said.

Hulsey said he hopes to start construction in 2018. The projects may qualify for housing grants, he said, but they’ll probably require some traditional financing because government subsidies are so competitive and scarce.

The neighborhood forum for the Sunset Avenue project will be held May 2 at 51 Landry Circle, followed by the forum for the Ocean Street project on May 9 at 100 Waterman Drive. Both meetings will run from 5 to 7 p.m.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at:

[email protected]