Bayside's 'Anchor' a drop in the sea of Portland's housing needs

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PORTLAND — Bayside Anchor was touted as a model of mixed-income, mixed-use housing at a grand opening June 7.

The 45-unit, four-story building at the corner of Boyd and East Oxford streets has 36 units of low-income housing and the new home of the Portland Community Policing Station.

“It is very much a blessing, I can’t understate what a gift it is” resident Timothy Leo said June 5.

But the blessing of low-income housing availability is limited; Bayside Anchor is one of only two projects that will open this year.

Avesta spokeswoman Sara Olson said the nonprofit expects to open a development at 17 Carleton St. in November, which would add 37 more units targeted to renters earning from 40 to 60 percent of the area median income.

At Bayside Anchor, a joint venture between Avesta and the Portland Housing Authority, the 36 units are targeted to individuals and families earning from $23,000 to $49,000. Monthly rents will range from $540 to $810 for efficiencies, $578 to $867 for one-bedroom units, and $694 to $1,041 for two-bedroom units.

By contrast, the city Planning Department in April estimated 690 market-rate housing units are under construction this year. That includes 88 units of senior housing at the former St. Joseph’s Convent at 605 Stevens Ave.

While 66 of those units are targeted for people 55 and older who meet affordable income guidelines, developer Kevin Bunker said June 9 it will be about 18 months before they are ready for occupancy.

Avesta data from January to April shows almost 1,900 households on a waiting list for affordable housing throughout its regional service area.

“We could have 75 buildings the size of Bayside Anchors,” architect Jesse Thompson, of Kaplan Thompson Architects, said.

The city now has inclusionary zoning requiring 10 percent of all units built in projects of 10 or more units be marketed to people earning 100 percent of the area median income, but buildings can also forgo the designation by paying $100,000 per unit to the city Housing Trust Fund.

Bayside Anchor is also a model of environmental efficiency. It will be certified as a Passive House building by Passive House Institute US for a design that reduces the heating load by 85 percent. Developers estimate an annual operating cost of $125 per unit.

Insulation and efficient ventilation mean the building needs no central heating system, and 167 rooftop solar panels power some building and office systems.

Bayside Anchors was built for $7.8 million, with almost $5 million coming from low-income housing tax credits extended to investors from the Internal Revenue Service through the Maine State Housing Authority.

Technological advances make passive housing construction more affordable, but Thompson said it still required tight budgeting.

“We weren’t given extra benefits for doing it. We had to be as affordable as any project,” he said.

After some months of insecure living arrangements, Leo said finding a new home close to where he grew up on Munjoy Hill was a surprise.

“I am very fortunate I got a call from Avesta,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here, I’d be outside the city.”

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

Bayside Anchor at Boyd and East Oxford streets provides 36 low-income housing units, or about half the total that will become available this year in Portland.

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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.