SOUTH PORTLAND – Faced with a waiting list of nearly 500 elderly and disabled residents — a list so long that it’s currently closed to new applicants — the city’s housing authority wants to add units as soon as possible.

A planned 40-unit building off Ridgeland Avenue, authority leaders say, would be a solid start.

The South Portland Housing Authority has an option to buy an undeveloped 4.3-acre parcel that abuts an existing senior housing complex, Ridgeland Estates. The Planning Board this week gave preliminary approval to a zoning change for the property, and the City Council is expected to take up the matter next month.

Michael Hulsey, the authority’s executive director, said the organization has the money to purchase the property for the agreed price of $625,000. For construction costs, the authority’s first option is to apply for funding through the federal Low Income Tax Credit program. If all the pieces came together as planned, construction could begin as early as next summer.

“We hope that this is something that everyone can get behind,” Hulsey said Friday.

“We’re very excited. I started as executive director in November 2009, and one of the things that was clear right away was that the commissioners want more development, they want to serve the needs of the people.”

The housing authority has a stock of about 600 units at three main properties and several smaller properties throughout the city. About 350 of those units are reserved for low-income elderly or disabled people, and families who qualify for public housing. Those residents pay 30 percent of their income for rent.

Kevin Glynn, chair of the housing authority board of commissioners, told the Planning Board on Tuesday that no one is pleased about having waiting lists that are closed.

“The need couldn’t be more dire,” Glynn said.

The undeveloped acreage sits just to the west of Ridgeland Estates, an 80-unit building with 89 parking spots. The concept for the new building calls for between 40 and 44 units, with about 32 parking spots. Because some residents at the properties do not have cars, the parking between the two should be adequate, Hulsey said.

Ridgeland Avenue, on the city’s northwest side, is close to Broadway and tucked between Calvary and Forest City cemeteries.

The last project developed by the Housing Authority was the Betsy Ross House, which opened in June 2001 at 99 Preble St. It is an eight-story building with 123 units that are a mix of market rates and public housing.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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