SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Housing Authority is on track to get zoning changes needed to build a 55-unit expansion to the mixed-income Betsy Ross House, an independent living apartment complex for older adults.

The City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday on a first reading of zoning changes that would allow the authority to build a five-story addition connected by an enclosed passageway to the original seven-story, 123-unit building at 99 Preble St. Ext. Another public hearing and final vote are scheduled for Oct. 12.

Joe Scala, a development officer with the housing authority, said there’s a waiting list of 116 people for the Betsy Ross House, a complex of one-bedroom apartments for people age 62 and older with daily noontime dining room service.

“There’s definitely pent up demand for these units,” Scala told the council.

Located near the city’s Greenbelt Walkway and Bug Light Park, the existing Betsy Ross House offers both market rate and subsidized apartments for people who make as little as 30 percent of area median income, Scala said.

To qualify for an apartment in the Betsy Ross House expansion, tenants could earn as much as 50 percent of the area median income, which is $35,000 for one person and $40,000 for two people; or as much as 60 percent of the area median income – $42,000 for one person and $48,000 for two people. Monthly rent would be $937 and $1,125, respectively.

If the zoning changes are approved, the housing authority will seek low-income housing tax credit financing through the Maine State Housing Authority, as well as a Tax Increment Financing agreement from the council and site plan approval from the Planning Board.

The expansion of the Betsy Ross House is one of three projects the authority has in the works to address the scarcity of affordable apartments in Greater Portland, including the 42-unit Thornton Heights Commons at 611 Main St., which is slated to be completed in late October.

Last week, the Planning Board unanimously recommended zoning changes for Landry Woods, a project that would add a 44-unit affordable apartment complex for people age 55 and older to Landry Village.

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