Avesta housing project falls short

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SCARBOROUGH — Falling just eight points short in the scoring process, Avesta Housing will not receive tax credits this year through the state housing authority, which could put the Southgate House project on hold for as long as a year until alternate tax credits are secured.

Avesta was seventh on the waiting list at the end of November for 2016 Maine State Housing Authority low-income tax credits due to the eight-point penalization. 

Avesta applied for approximately $703,000 worth of tax credits through the housing authority, but lost eight key points from their score due to a 250-foot gap in the sidewalk from the property to sidewalk on Payne Road and Route 1. The project would have placed second overall with those points, and received the funding.

Seth Parker, director of real estate development for Avesta, said the lack of sidewalk is “largely a technicality,” and something that can easily be addressed. 

Avesta Housing initially applied for a contract zone for the 3-acre parcel at 577 U.S. Route 1 in the spring, with the intention of repurposing the Southgate House and constructing a new wing on the backside to build a total of 50 multi-family affordable housing units.  

The brick Southgate farmhouse and barns are believed to have been built between 1798 and 1805 by Dr. Robert Southgate. Southgate farmed the surrounding land and was married to Mary King, whose brother, William, was Maine’s first governor.

Today the farmhouse is broken up into seven apartment buildings, five of which are occupied. 

The housing units will be available for individuals and families who earn an annual salary between $17,000 and $45,000, said Kyle Ambler, a development officer with Avesta. 

The affordable housing and historic preservation project was approved by the Town Council earlier this summer as part of a contract zone and 17-year tax increment financing district. Using a TIF for the affordable housing project will reduce taxes paid by the developer and shelter additional tax revenue the development produces for the town.

If the tax credits sought from Maine Housing were received, construction would have likely begun in the spring, Town Planner Dan Bacon said last Friday. 

 “They’re still very interested in pursuing the project. They are kind of regrouping right now and thinking about what other funding sources to go after,” Bacon said. 

Avesta has a handful of other applications pending that would bring “some fundamental funding layers,” to the fold, Parker said Wednesday afternoon.

Depending on how those applications turn out, pursuing fund during next year’s application process with Maine State Housing Authority is also an option, he said. Construction would then tentatively begin next spring or summer, Parker said.
Adding the short segment of sidewalk is certainly doable and “not a big barrier to getting this project off the ground,” Bacon said.
Extending the sidewalk could even be taken on by the town as a nominal capital investment. “It’s an area where we can promote pedestrians and development along those lines,” Bacon said. 

“I’d be surprised if they weren’t successful in moving forward in the next 12 months,” Bacon said. 

Even though progress has been halted, Parker said, “it’s still a tremendously compelling project, and we’re still very optimistic that it will find a path forward, eventually.” 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

Avesta Housing’s application for tax credits to the Maine State Housing Authority to repurpose the historic Southgate House into 50 affordable housing units came up short eight points in late November. The project could be delayed up to a year as the organization will seeks alternate funding for the project.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.