Avesta plans senior housing on Brighton Avenue in Portland

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PORTLAND — Avesta Housing hopes to build 40 one-bedroom apartments for people age 55 and older at the corner of Brighton Avenue and Wessex Street.

“It has been too many years since senior housing has been built (in Portland),” Avesta Development Officer Greg Payne said Feb. 9.

The new housing would be built on the site of a two-family home and adjacent storage building owned by the nonprofit, according to Avesta’s plans and city tax records. The property is between the Pine Tree Shopping Center and Nason’s Corner on Brighton Avenue.

The estimated $7.1 million project would include 24 units reserved for people earning less than 50 percent of the area median income and 10 for people earning less than 60 percent of the area median income. Those incomes range from $29,000 to $35,000, according to the Maine State Housing Authority.

The remainder would be rented at market rates.

In a Dec. 22, 2017, letter to the city, project engineer Thomas Greer of Pinkham & Greer Engineers said the apartments will be in a four-story building facing Brighton Avenue, with 32 parking spaces planned in a lot off Wessex Street. There will also be parking for 16 bicycles.

Greer said the project is well suited to an area that includes residential and commercial development. The site would allow residents access to shopping and employment opportunities, and also have a public transportation link to downtown Portland and Westbrook.

Payne said the accessibility to public transportation is critical for any Avesta project. The nonprofit originally had different plans for the site, but revised them because of the dearth of housing for low-income seniors.

Avesta was contacted by 1,300 households last year seeking affordable senior housing, Payne said. That is more than a third of the total number of applications for assistance the nonprofit received. Avesta was able to fulfill 393 requests.

Avesta will apply to the MSHA for low-income housing tax credits the agency allocates annually to lure investors to low-income housing development. The credits originate with the IRS, and using them requires a 30-year commitment to meeting the low-income guidelines.

The next round of applications will be made in the fall. Avesta applied for low-income housing tax credits for its prior plans at 977 Brighton Ave. in 2016, but withdrew the application.

“What we see happening is submitting for financing in early fall,” Payne said. “We hope to hear by November, and to break ground in spring 2019.”

He said he expects construction to take a year.

Payne said it is also possible Avesta will seek a tax increment finance zone and credit enhancement agreement with the city, mechanisms that can help offset operation costs in the future. The TIF agreement could return as much as 65 percent of the increase in property valuation to Avesta.

Avesta now has TIFs in place for its housing at 134 Washington Ave., 17 Carleton St. and 409 Cumberland Ave.

Payne said the decision to seek a TIF will be predicated on the next set of qualifying rules MSHA uses to award tax credits. Prior rules have awarded more points to agencies with TIFs in the communities where they are planning projects.

If completed, Avesta’s project would be the second for low-income people 55 and older added to city housing recently. Work is continuing at the former St. Joseph’s Convent, 605 Stevens Ave., to convert the building to 88 apartments, with 66 marketed to affordability guidelines.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Avesta Housing has applied with Portland to tear down this home it owns at 977 Brighton Ave. in order to build 40 apartments to be rented to people ages 55 and older.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.