A design rendering of the affordable apartments planned for seniors on Skyview Drive in Cumberland Foreside. Contributed / Cumberland Town Council

The Cumberland Town Council next week will unveil plans for three affordable housing developments, one each for the Foreside, West Cumberland and Cumberland Center neighborhoods.

“This is probably the most exciting project we have right now,” Town Manager Bill Shane said. “When you make a commitment to affordable housing, it’s very exciting. It speaks highly of our community.”

On the Foreside, a 55-unit senior housing project has Planning Board approval, and developer Szanton is in the process of applying for low income tax credits from the Maine State Housing Authority. The senior apartments would be located on Skyview Drive, off Route 1.

“I want this project in our town very much,” Shane told The Forecaster.

On the west side of town, plans call for 60 single-family, owned units and possibly up to 32 rental units through a public-private partnership with developer David Chase, at the former Blue Rock site on Blackstrap Road. In Cumberland Center, the town will choose a developer to work with on a 110-unit, two-building project on Drowne Road.

The planned projects all will likely involve the Maine State Housing Authority, and while construction and day-to-day management of the housing will not impact taxpayers, Shane said it would be inaccurate to assume that some portion of tax dollars wouldn’t be used.


Shane and Council Vice Chairperson Mark Segrist began working on plans for new affordable housing about 18 months ago, when the topic kept coming up during discussions about building a new elementary school, they said.

“We realized that many residents in Cumberland were really struggling with the affordability of housing,” Segrist said. “I don’t think this is something that is unique to Cumberland, but we noticed that it was hitting Cumberland quite hard.”

Segrist served as a council liaison on the 12-member Housing Task Force Advisory Committee, which included residents and councilors. The task force spent seven months discussing affordable housing options, and spent a lot of time on what affordable means to different groups of people, he said.

The definition of affordability, Segrist said, is driven by the funding mechanism that helps fund an affordable housing project. For instance, if the funds are coming from the federal government for a particular project, the federal definition of affordable housing would apply to that project.

“The definition of affordable will change based on where the money is coming from, and what the project is that the developer is trying to build,” Segrist said.

Overall affordability in Cumberland is determined by the average median income, or AMI. A housing unit that rents at 60% of the AMI for the Portland Metro Area is considered affordable. In Cumberland, that is somewhere around $1,000 to $1,100 a month. For home ownership, a home priced in the low $400,000 range is considered affordable in the area, Shane said.


“It seems insane, but that’s how it works out,” he said of the home prices.

Rents for the planned apartments on the Foreside and in West Cumberland would be set at 60% AMI. The town will likely provide tax increment financing for the latter project.

“If towns really want to help push affordability and make it a priority, they need to reach into their toolboxes and figure out what they can use to help make those projects more affordable,” Segrist said. “Frankly, that’s where TIF funds are really important.”

The town hasn’t determined if the planned affordable housing project in Cumberland Center would be designated for seniors, for families or a mix.

More than half of Cumberland residents responding to a survey last fall said they would support affordable housing in town, Shane said, and the council used those results to validate the move in that direction.

The Town Council will present the affordable housing plan at its meeting Monday, March 27.

“I want people to know that the town of Cumberland is hearing that they’re struggling with the issue of affordable housing, and we’re taking immediate action steps to help with that,” Segrist said.

Comments are not available on this story.