Avesta Housing hopes to build 40 one-bedroom apartments for people age 55 and older at the corner of Brighton Avenue and Wessex Street in Portland.

“It has been too many years since senior housing has been built (in Portland),” Avesta Development Officer Greg Payne said.

The new housing would be built on the site of a two-family home and adjacent storage building owned by the nonprofit, according to Avesta’s plans and city tax records. The property is between the Pine Tree Shopping Center and Nason’s Corner on Brighton Avenue.

The estimated $7.1 million projected would include 24 units reserved for people earning less than 50 percent of the area median income and 10 units for people earning less than 60 percent of the area median income. Those annual incomes range from $29,000 to $35,000, according to the Maine State Housing Authority.

The remaining 6 units would be rented at market rates.

In a Dec. 22 letter to the city, project engineer Thomas Greer of Pinkham & Greer Engineers said the apartments will be in a four-story building facing Brighton Avenue, with 32 parking spaces planned in a lot off Wessex Street. There will also be parking for 16 bicycles.

Greer said the project is well suited to an area that includes residential and commercial development. The site would allow residents access to shopping and employment opportunities, and also have a public transportation link to downtown Portland and Westbrook.

Payne said the accessibility to public transportation is critical for any Avesta project. The nonprofit originally had different plans for the site, but revised them because of the dearth of housing for low-income seniors, he said.

Avesta was contacted by 1,300 households last year seeking affordable senior housing, Payne said. That is more than a third of the total number of applications for assistance the nonprofit received. Avesta was able to fulfill 393 requests.

Avesta will apply to the Maine State Housing Authority for low-income housing tax credits, which require a 30-year commitment to meeting the low-income guidelines.

“What we see happening is submitting for financing in early fall,” Payne said. “We hope to hear by November, and to break ground in spring 2019.”

He said he expects construction to take a year.

Payne said it is also possible Avesta will seek a tax increment finance zone and credit enhancement agreement with the city, mechanisms that can help offset operation costs in the future. The TIF agreement could return as much as 65 percent of the increase in property valuation to Avesta.

Payne said the decision to seek a TIF will depend on qualifying rules for the tax credits. Prior rules have awarded more points to agencies with TIFs in the communities where they are planning projects.

If completed, Avesta’s project would be the second for low-income people 55 and older added to city housing recently. Work is continuing at the former St. Joseph’s Convent, 605 Stevens Ave., to convert the building to 88 apartments, with 66 marketed to affordability guidelines.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Read this story in The Forecaster.

filed under: