Scarborough Town Council approved $300,000 in additional funding for Bessey Commons II, which would add 40 units for low-income seniors. Bessey Commons is located off Route 1 in the old Bessey School, and currently has 54 units. (Courtesy photo)

SCARBOROUGH — The town council approved the allocation of $300,000 to the Bessey Commons II affordable housing project on July 17. The funding would serve alongside $100,000 allocated last year, to leverage proposed housing expansion to future investors.

The funds would come from the town’s $1.2 million Affordable Housing Initiative and bring the project’s overall balance to $716,000. The request next heads to the Maine State Housing Authority for approval, which is expected in September.

The expansion of the Bessey Commons project will provide 40 additional affordable one-room units for seniors. Bessey Commons is located at 1 Bessey School Drive off Route 1. Housing Initiatives of New England, the developer working alongside Scarborough Housing Alliance on the proposal, says its goal is to start building this year.

“Forty units for $400,000 is only $10,000 per unit,” Marj DeSanctis, chair of Scarborough Housing Alliance, said. “It’s the best bang for the buck.”

Housing Initiatives of New England requested $100,000 last year to leverage their application to the 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The program is a federal tax credit allocated to affordable housing developers by the Maine State Housing Authority.

According to Maine State Housing Authority, allocation of the tax credit process is competitive. Bessey Commons did not receive funding last year.

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“The town of Scarborough is not rated as needy as other communities in the state that have more per capita residents at 60 percent of the median income,” Housing Initiatives of New England President Cynthia Taylor wrote in a July 10 letter to Scarborough Town Council.

Scarborough has a significant number of senior citizens who are eligible for low-income housing, indicated by the large waiting list for Bessey Commons.

Bessey Commons is in the renovated Bessey School and has 54 units. According to its website, the waiting list for Bessey Commons is possibly two years or longer. Twenty percent of the applicants on the waiting list for Bessey Commons are Scarborough residents.

“As a part of our marketing efforts, we will advertise within Scarborough and give priority status to Scarborough residents,” Taylor wrote.

This year, Housing Initiatives of New England is seeking funds through a less competitive program, “New Housing for Older Adults,” which has less funds available than the LIHTC program.

Councilor Don Hamill asked how this current request for funding could be ranked against other future housing needs, to analyze the decision to allocate funding to this particular project.

“It’s going to serve people who need it now, people who can’t wait,” Taylor said. “The high demand is key. We’ve had 65 applicants in one week.”

The council approved the allocation $300,000 and authorized Town Manager Thomas Hall to sign any and all documents related to the order.

Evelyn Waugh can be reached at [email protected].

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