Westbrook Housing celebrated the groundbreaking of its 38-unit elderly affordable housing project last week, an expansion of the Mill Brook Estates facility at 300 East Bridge St.

Construction on the $5.8 million project has begun, and is expected to take a year.

When complete, the senior housing units will be the first to open in Westbrook since Avesta Housing opened its Hyacinth Place apartments in May 2014.

The building will be named after Malcolm A. Noyes, a longtime Westbrook Housing commissioner and former board chairman. Noyes, 86, also is the father of Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton.

Some 60 people attended the official groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, April 14, including city councilors, Planning Board members and Hilton.

Chris LaRoche, executive director of Westbrook Housing, said this week that Noyes was involed in Westbrook Housing (formerly known as the Westbrook Housing Authority) for nearly 50 years. He served on its board of commissioners for 20 years, 13 as chairman.

“Malcolm really drove the philosophical direction of the housing authority,” LaRoche said, naming multiple projects that Noyes spearheaded, including the redevelopment of the former Westbrook High School.

During her remarks Thursday, Hilton, who has six siblings, said her father instilled a sense of community service in the family.

“My parents often said, if you live here you need to participate,” she said. “This was not a difficult thing to follow through on as we watched my dad and his 20-plus-year commitment to Westbrook Housing as a commissioner.”

Noyes is also credited with hiring former longtime housing director John Gallagher, who now serves as director of Maine State Housing.

For Westbrook Housing, the project has been a long time coming. Mill Brook Estates, with 100 units built in 1991, was originally planned to feature 150 units, with a second phase of 50 units. LaRoche said 38 units fit the financial and space considerations.

Of the $5.8 million project, $1.5 million will be paid for by low-income housing tax credits, part of a federal Internal Revenue Service program that is administered by individual states and based on population. The remaining funds come from a combination of grants and loans.

The need for senior housing is seen as a rising one in Greater Portland, as well as the state.

Elsewhere in the city, Northbridge Companies, operators of Avita of Stroudwater, are constructing the 95-unit Stroudwater Lodge, a state-of-the-art senior facility, off Spring Street. However, this type of development is not aimed at low-income seniors.

According to LaRoche, Westbrook Housing has a waiting list of 450 senior residents looking for affordable housing.

Monthly rents for the Noyes building will be based on residents making 50 to 60 percent of median income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Currently, those numbers sit at $723 for a single person at the 50 percent mark, and $867 for a single person at the 60 percent mark. For couples, the benchmarks are slightly higher. All rent prices include utilities. Of the 38 units, 23 will be designated for those at 50 percent, with 15 designated for those at 60 percent.

“This fits a big need within the community,” LaRoche said.

Westbrook Housing also plans to break ground on a new project next to its existing facilities on Liza Harmon Drive sometime in 2017. LaRoche said roughly half of the funding has been secured.

However, he said, funding for low-income and senior housing has increasingly become a political issue. Last month, Gov. Paul LePage announced his refusal to sign off on a $15 million senior housing bond, which was approved by Maine voters in November.

According to LaRoche, some 9,000 Maine seniors are in need of housing, a number that is expected to grow to 15,000 by 2020.

He said the new projects in Westbrook, which have been supported by city administration, show that Westbrook understands the need.

Hilton said this week that her father has repeatedly said that he is proud of Westbrook Housing’s commitment to seniors, and especially those with low income.

“We like to think that we set a standard,” LaRoche said.

Malcolm A. Noyes, a longtime Westbrook Housing commissioner and former board chairman, attended last week’s groundbreaking for the new Mill Brook apartments that will bear his name. He is the father of Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton.

Westbrook Housing’s Malcom A. Noyes building will add 38-units of low income elderly housing in the city. According to executive director Chris LaRoche, Westbrook Housing has a waiting list of about 450 residents looking for housing.

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