TOPSHAM — The Topsham Housing Authority won bids for two tax-acquired condominiums the town put up for sale, which director John Hodge said should allow the organization to keep the current tenants in their homes who faithfully paid rent.

Tax liens were placed on the two condo units at 55 and 88 Munroe Lane in August 2017 and matured in February 2019, according to Assistant Town Manager Mark Waltz. These condos are located off Route 201. The high bid was $76,000 for 55 Munroe Lane and $50,000 for 88 Munroe Lane. The Topsham Housing Authority bid $40,000 on both properties.

Selectmen unanimously awarded the bids from Topsham Housing Authority last week. Waltz said while the housing authority didn’t provide the highest bids, it covers the town’s costs and it also increases the level of affordable housing in town. That is a focus of the town’s comprehensive plan, a vision for the future, that was last updated in 2019, Waltz said.

Seeing a $36,000 difference between one of the top bids and the housing authority bid, “I have to balance seeing that bid and keeping those people in their house,” said Selectman chair David Douglass said.

Hodge said Thursday the housing authority is working with its bank to secure the financing within the 30-day window. The condos will remain on the tax rolls and won’t receive any subsidy but by owning the condos, “we can keep them affordable while considering our expenses,” he said.

The organization is among five total bidders who told the town they are willing to continue renting to the current tenants. Both of the current tenants also bid on the property.

One of the tenants, Sarah Dube, to the town with their $19,000 bid. She states that she and her husband have two daughters, a sixth-grader and sophomore who attend Topsham schools. The family has lived in their condo since 2009, which was close to their workplaces and schools. She writes it became a blessing when their youngest daughter Emma was diagnosed with liver cancer at 10-months old and underwent a liver transplant three months later.

“It is extremely scary to think about having to relocate them to a different town and school system, not only due to the pandemic/remote learning situation we are in, but also the fact that introducing Emma to a new school system would be so very difficult,” Dube wrote.

Her husband, Tom Dube, said Thursday the couple has paid $120,000 in rent in their 11 years renting the condo. He said they didn’t realize their former landlords, an elderly couple, hadn’t paid the taxes and lost the property through foreclosure.

Because his family’s bid on the condo would more than cover the town’s expenses, Tom Dube said he felt if the Topsham Housing Authority hadn’t bid, the Dubes would have won the bid since the town usually works with tenants to stay in their home.

However, Tom Dube said at least if the housing authority buys the property, it keeps them in their home. There is also a five year period before the family would get a clear title, during which the sale can be challenged in court and so, “that’s probably the saving grace,” he said.

Topsham assessor Justin Hennessey said the town has 35 tax acquired properties currently, though only seven of the properties are developed. Hennessey said the town normally works out a payment plan for the owner to redeem their property and put it back on the tax rolls.
 

 

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