It’s been only two months since the Portland Housing Authority opened Bayside Anchor, its first new housing development in decades. But already, the low-income housing provider is poised to file plans for two additional projects, totaling more than 155 units of housing at a time when a dearth of affordable housing in Maine’s largest city is reaching crisis levels.

“This is the continuation of our effort to be a part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis in Portland,” said Jay Waterman, the housing authority’s development director.

The authority is looking to build a 55-unit apartment building at 58 Boyd St. in the city’s East Bayside neighborhood. The site is practically across the street from Bayside Anchor, a highly energy-efficient PHA apartment building at 81 Oxford St. with 45 units that opened in June.

A public meeting about the East Bayside proposal has been scheduled for Monday, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at 47 Smith St.

Meanwhile, about 2 miles away, the authority plans to build 100 apartments in a two-phase project on Front Street in East Deering. That proposal has generated concern among neighbors about traffic, parking and the overall urban design of the buildings in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

This rendering shows the proposed 58 Boyd St. project in Portland with an orange brick facade across from the green Bayside Anchor building, which opened in June. 58 Boyd St. would add 55 low-income apartments. Rendering courtesy CWS Architects

Both developments, which would provide a mix of low-income, affordable and market-rate housing, hinge on factors beyond the authority’s control.

In addition to needing site plan approvals, Waterman said the authority needs to secure coveted low-income housing tax credits from MaineHousing. Developers in turn sell those tax credits to investors, who can claim them annually over a 10-year period.

About 15 projects a year apply for only $3 million worth of tax credits, which is enough to fund just a handful of projects, according to MaineHousing spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte.

And the projects rely on the city enacting incentives for affordable housing developments, which are currently before the City Council.

Waterman said the $11 million proposal for 58 Boyd St. narrowly missed the cutoff for tax credits from MaineHousing last year. He said he hopes getting site plan approval before filing an application in January will push the project over the line.

Rendering shows Front Street from the perspective of looking south on West Presumpscot Street. Rendering courtesy of Utile Architecture and Planning

Waterman noted that MaineHousing didn’t award tax credits to any projects in Portland last year, which was unusual.

“With the goal of providing a lot more affordable housing in the city of Portland, given the current housing crisis, we really need to get a Portland project a win,” he said.

Avesta Housing is also seeking tax credits from MaineHousing for its plan to build 82 apartments in Parkside for mostly low-income people. That project is estimated to cost $10 million.

The Boyd Street project would include 28 apartments, including three-bedroom units, for people eligible for housing vouchers that require them to pay only 30 percent of their income. Sixteen units would be for people earning 50 to 60 percent of area median income, which varies depending on household size, while 11 units – mostly studios and single-bedroom units – would be market-rate.

Waterman estimated rents would range from $718 to $888 for a studio, $770 to $1,033 for a one bedroom, $923 to $1,292 for a two bedroom and $1,067 to $1,539 for a three bedroom.

He said the current zoning would allow for as many as 60 units. However, the project anticipates the council adopting additional zoning incentives for affordable housing that would allow the authority to build a 75-foot-tall building, as opposed to 50 feet. “We’d like our building to be more compact on a smaller footprint,” he said.

The East Bayside Neighborhood Organization could not be reached for comment.

FRONT STREET

The authority is looking to redevelop about two parcels, totaling about 4 acres, on Front Street in East Deering.

The site currently has about 50 units of dispersed townhouses. But the authority is looking to tear down those buildings so it can build 100 new units – 60 units in the first phase, estimated to cost $12 million, and 40 units in the second, which would cost $8 million.

Waterman said the residents in those units would receive relocation assistance, including moving costs, to temporary homes and would have the right of first refusal to the new units once they come on line.

“We don’t want to alarm the current residents,” he said. “Everybody will be taken care of with relocation and welcomed back to the new Front Street is the idea.”

Though many in the neighborhood acknowledge the need to upgrade the existing units on Front Street, local residents are concerned that the authority’s plans would double the number of units on the parcels, as well as add to existing traffic and parking headaches.

That increase in density would only be allowed if the City Council approves changes for planned residential use developments.

East Deering resident Cheryl Leeman said she is concerned that both the zoning amendments and the project itself are done deals, even though they have not been formally approved by the Planning Board and City Council. She said the project was first presented to the neighborhood in 2016 and it was clear the authority was planning on the city adopting affordable housing incentives.

Leeman, a former longtime councilor representing the neighborhood, pointed to the Give Neighborhoods a Voice referendum to increase neighborhood leverage over the city’s rezoning request as a reaction to the city’s current process.

“This deal was already decided behind closed doors with the Portland Housing Authority and the Planning Department and the public is being asked to respond,” she said. “All of that is why this neighborhood and other neighborhoods are upset about the city’s process.”

Leeman said the City Council will take up the changes to the land use code on Sept. 6.

Scott Dobos of Randall Street, whose residence abuts the property, said he and his neighbors are concerned about increased traffic and parking issues, as well as the urban design of the buildings, which are being proposed in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

“I think new buildings would be great, but my priority is to make (sure) it is a welcoming part of the community,” Dobos said. “These are big old buildings right at the curbside, which isn’t very welcoming.”

Waterman said the authority hopes to submit site plans for the Boyd Street and Front Street projects to the city sometime in September.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

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