BIDDEFORD – The Biddeford City Council has agreed to use federal grant money to buy three downtown properties for redevelopment into housing.

Community Development Block Grant funding in the amount of $186,000 will be given to the Biddeford Housing Authority to purchase vacant lots between 49 and 53 Green St. and a three-unit apartment building at 46 Sullivan St.

Executive Director Guy Gagnon said Wednesday the authority plans to improve and resell the properties, then invest its profit from the sales into further community development.

“Our intent is to stabilize the neighborhoods,” he said.

Gagnon joined the Biddeford Housing Authority in June after six years working for the Westbrook Housing Authority. He said he has seen city neighborhoods once considered less desirable, such as Munjoy Hill and Danforth Street in Portland, improved by the presence of homeowners.

“Neighborhoods that revitalize usually add home ownership. It adds stability,” he said.

The lots on Green Street, to be purchased for $46,000, have been vacant since a fire destroyed the buildings there a few years ago, Gagnon said. The authority is expected to close within a week on that property and start foundation work later this month.

In January, the authority will move a house built by students from Biddeford’s Regional Center of Technology onto the property, Gagnon said.

The authority has made an offer on the foreclosed property on Sullivan Street but is waiting for a response, Gagnon said. The City Council approved $140,000 for the purchase.

Plans for that property include rehabilitating the three rental units and reselling the building to someone who would live there and rent the other two units.

By hiring local contractors to complete work on both properties, purchasing the house built by area high school students and revitalizing neighborhoods, Gagnon said the project is serving a number of purposes.

Wayne Hapgood, building trades instructor at the Regional Center of Technology, said the purchase of the house helps the program continue.

The Biddeford and Saco Rotary clubs pay for construction materials so the high school juniors in the program can get hands-on experience building homes. The sale of each house helps pay for construction of the next. But because houses built during the past two years remain unsold, students have been unable to start this year’s project, Hapgood said.

“It hurts (the program),” he said. Without the house construction, “it is really difficult to get the same concepts across.”

City Councilor Bob Mills, who lives near the vacant lots on Green Street, said the lots have been a topic of discussion among neighbors since 2005.

“I speak for the rest of the community. We’re very excited to move forward with that,” Mills said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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