The Windham Planning Board this month will recommend that the Town Council approve changes in zoning to encourage developers to build more affordable housing, according to the town planning director.

The amendments have been in the works since a 2017 analysis of the town’s housing market, according to Planning Director Amanda Lessard.

“Windham is more affordable than other greater Portland communities, but people who work in Windham can’t afford to live here,” Lessard said of the 2017 findings.

The changes the board is expected to pass on to the council Aug. 23 include easing in high growth areas restrictions on the numbers of units, building height, setbacks from the road, and lot size, Lessard said. In the commercial zoning district that Route 302 passes through to the west of Little Sebago Lake, for example, minimum lot size, net residential density and maximum building height would not be regulated, leaving more leeway for developers.

Affordable housing would be constructed in five zoning districts in town that include commercial areas, a medium density residential zone, and a proposed Windham Center District. These districts have been identified as growth areas, Lessard said, and do not include rural zones.

The town defines affordable housing as units affordable for those with no greater than 120% of median family income in the Portland metropolitan statistical area, and monthly rent that doesn’t exceed 30% of gross monthly income.

The median home value in Windham from 2015-2019 was $248,400, according to the most recent census data.

The median household income in Windham from the most recent census data sits at $78,284. Using that income level, affordable monthly rent would be no more than $1,950 per month.

Economic Development Director Thomas Bartell, citing data from 2013, said 60% of the town’s workforce lives outside of Windham. Retail, food and hospitality total about 40% of the town’s workforce, he said, and those workers need to be housed.

The Westbrook Development Corporation, which develops affordable affordable housing and serves Windham, presented a report to the Town Council last summer that said there is a  demonstrated need in Windham for housing for seniors and young families.

More housing options for seniors such as apartments and condominiums are needed, the WDC said, and single family homes are not affordable to most local families.

“The need seems to be in affordable senior housing, but seniors are also concerned about their children and grandchildren not being able to find affordable workforce housing,” Bartell said. 

Chris LaRoche of Westbrook Development Corporation was unavailable for comment.

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