BIDDEFORD —The City Council has endorsed the concept of a plan by Southern Maine Affordable Housing and Adams Point LP for a 36-unit building at 69 Adams St. in Biddeford to provide affordable housing for families.

The 1.54-acre property is vacant land.

The endorsement is the beginning of a process leading to a contract zone that would come back to the council from the Planning Board for final approval.

The project is also dependent on funding — Southern Maine Affordable Housing and Adams Point LP are seeking federal low-income tax credits and are also approaching Maine Housing for funds, said Planning and Economic Development Director Mathew Eddy. He said he’ll also be back to the council for approval of a Credit Enhancement Agreement for the proposed project, once total costs are nailed down.

Biddeford Housing Authority Director Guy Gagnon, who also represents Southern Maine Affordable Housing, said the former St. Joseph’s Convent used to be on the site, and that the new building may be similar or a bit bigger in size.

“This is not a done deal, it has to make financial sense, and so we’ll be asking for as much concession from the city as we can get,” said Gagnon.

While the project would meet most of the standards in Main Street Revitalization District 2, without a contract zone, the lot would allow only 33 units, not the 36 sought that would help make the project financially feasible, Gagnon noted in a letter to the city. The height allowed in the district is three stories and 35 feet. Given the lot’s size and topography, a smaller foot print was sought, and so the project would be five stories and 60 feet high. Gagnon pointed out that some nearby properties, including Parish Place at 41 Birch St. is 50 to 60 feet tall, and Ledgewood Apartments on Graham Street is seven stories and 60 to 70 feet in height.

The proposed building would house a number of one, two, and three-bedroom units, and perhaps some four-bedroom units.

Gagnon said the proposal calls for a couple of different income models, and estimated rents would be 20 percent less than market rate. He said the building would be aimed at low- to moderate-income tenants.

“It’s basically working families,” Gagnon said.

The contract zone is also being sought because the parking standard requires two spaces per unit — higher than the demand typically created by affordable housing, Gagnon said in the letter. The applicant is requesting .75 spaces per dwelling unit — an average amount for housing projects managed by Southern Maine Affordable Housing and consistent with similar projects in the region.

Councilor Marc Lessard said he doesn’t generally  favor of contract zones, but knows there’s a need for affordable housing. He said he has concerns about the parking proposal, and would like to see answers for that sorted out, but is otherwise happy there is a project the council can endorse.

Other councilors expressed support, including councilor Amy Clearwater, who said she lives nearby. She said she believed the proposed amount of parking was adequate.

Councilor John McCurry noted some families are living in two-bedroom units but need larger quarters and asked if local residents could be prioritized.

Gagnon said the agency has three preferences — Biddeford residents, people who work in the city, or those have some sort of relationship to Biddeford, like family here. He said that doesn’t mean rental units aren’t open to others, “but as an umbrella statements, that is our preference, it is a tie-breaker.”

The City Council voted 8-1, with McCurry dissenting, to send the matter to the Planning Board.

Comments are not available on this story.