The Scarborough Housing Alliance is aiding the Town Council in exploring whether local motel and hotel owners could be allowed to convert their properties to affordable and workforce housing.

The alliance, a town committee that makes recommendations to the council on affordable housing, met with town officials last week to discuss factors that would need to be considered. It likes the idea of using existing buildings to create housing, according to Chairperson Bryan Shumway.

The catalyst for the exploration came last fall when the owners of Candlewood Suites at Gorham and Payne roads approached the town about converting their hotel to multifamily housing. Their biggest hurdle was that the zoning of that area did not permit multifamily residential developments.

“The council heard them in a workshop format and didn’t give them much encouragement,” Town Manager Tom Hall told The Forecaster. “There wasn’t really interest at the time.”

Since then, another local lodging establishment expressed interest in converting, which is becoming a trend across the country, Hall said.

“It just got us thinking; there must be something happening in the business world that’s causing traditional hotels or extended-stay-type operations to consider converting to something else,” he said. “The pandemic may be changing, at least, business travel.”


The interest also comes at a time when Maine is experiencing a shortage of 25,000 affordable housing units, according to a February report in the Portland Press Herald.

The council asked for the Housing Alliance’s help in exploring the idea, which is in its very early stages.

Among the factors discussed at the May 5 meeting were the necessary amenities needed for a conversion.  The standard hotel room does not provide a kitchen, for example, so suites that come with a kitchen are easier to convert. While early in the process, the alliance also discussed limiting the number of bedrooms per unit, how to re-work zoning, and the availability of federal funding for such projects.

“We recognize that there’s a continued need statewide and even within our own community for affordable housing and workforce housing,” said Housing Alliance Chairperson Bryan Shumway. “Available land for new affordable housing continues to be a bigger and bigger issue. This opportunity to use an existing stock of buildings to create affordable and workforce housing was exciting to us.”

The Housing Alliance will follow up with an official list of recommendations, Shumway said, potentially as soon as their next meeting later this month.

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