New Portland peninsula housing remains predominantly pricey

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PORTLAND — Construction expected to be completed on the city’s peninsula promises to add more than 210 housing units for sale or rent this year.

Only 46 of them, or fewer than a quarter, may be considered “affordable” by local median income standards, although two other planned developments could add about 100 units by the middle of 2016.

“We are seeing the beginning of the reversal of the suburban migration and we are seeing people willing to live in smaller spaces,” Redfern Properties principal Jonathan Culley said Jan. 2.

Redfern will open West End Place and Munjoy Heights this spring. At Munjoy Heights, tucked just below the ridge off Walnut and Sheridan streets, 22 of 29 homes are under contract, priced from $600,000-$800,000, according to the development website.

There are projects as small as the five units nearing completion at 152 Sheridan St. and the six units under construction at 133 York St., and as large as the 39 condominiums at 113 Newbury St., across from, but not connected to the Bay House development that opened in 2013.

The 12-unit 118 on Munjoy Hill, a block from the Portland Observatory on Congress Street, is half sold, according to its website, with prices for the remainder starting at $725,000.

What Culley and Sandy Johnson of Town & Shore Associates said they see as a burgeoning market for people looking to simplify their lives and enjoy a walkable lifestyle in the oldest areas of the city is countered by concerns about affordability from Mindy Woerter of nonprofit Avesta Housing.

“Portland is in dire need of more affordable housing to meet demand,” Woerter said in a Jan. 2 email. “In general, for every one person Avesta is able to house, another nine are turned away due to limited availability of affordable apartments.”

Avesta is now accepting applications for the 57 apartments at 409 Cumberland, at the corner of Cumberland and Forest avenues. Eleven of the apartments will be offered at market rate, with the remainder at monthly rents from $647 for an efficiency to $1,350 for two bedrooms.

Woerter said the agency expects are to add 18 more efficiency units at 134 Washington Ave., near the corner of Walnut Street, by the end of the year, with construction starting by April.

“We are still planning to target veterans in particular for the property, and plan to reach out to groups that serve veterans to market these apartments,” Woerter said of the Washington Avenue project.

West End Place, which extends south along Brackett Street from its intersection with Pine Street, will bring 24 one-bedroom and 15 two-bedroom apartments to the West End, with monthly rents Culley said will range from $1,400 to $2,500.

Johnson on Monday said Town & Shore will begin advertising 113 Newbury in about a week. The condominiums are expected to open in the fall, but demand requires a head start on the marketing, she said.

“Most of our units were sold well before completion,” Johnson said, something that allows buyers more say in the final details, such as carpeting or counter tops.

Johnson, who moved into Bay House while scaling back on the living space she needed, said she expects 113 Newbury to sell quickly.

“I think the demographics are such that people are looking for urban living,” she said.

Much of the demand has come from aging Baby Boomers, with more than 50 percent coming from outside Portland, if not from out of state, she added.

Culley said his enthusiasm for the peninsula has led to a variety of development plans. Last month, City Councilors approved a zoning change allowing Redfern Properties to move forward with a 57-unit complex on the current site of an auto shop at Anderson and Fox streets in East Bayside.

Culley estimated rents might start at around half of what will be charged at West End Place, but development plans have not been presented to the Planning Board. He expects the apartments to be ready in the summer of 2016.

At about the same time, Portland Housing Authority Executive Director Mark Adelson said Bayside Anchor, an Oxford Street development with 36 of 45 apartments priced at or below 60 percent of the area median income, could be finished.

Funding for the project was approved last month by the Maine State Housing Authority, which passed through an annual federal tax credit of $590,000 that extends over 10 years for a builder who constructs affordable housing.

In an email Monday, Adelson said the Bayside Anchor will help ease the housing crunch.

“However, a lot more new housing is needed to create the type of healthy rental market that provides all renters with their choice of safe, decent and affordable housing they need,” he said.

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

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Half the condominium units at 118 on Munjoy Hill on Congress Street, just east of the Portland Observatory, are under contract, according to the development website; the remainder start at $725,000.

409 Cumberland in Portland, built by Avesta Housing, is now accepting applications for 57 apartments, 46 of which are considered affordable by area median income guidelines. Agency spokeswoman Mindy Woerter said one in nine applicants are able to get housing through Avesta.

West End Place at the corner of Pine and Brackett streets is one of two Redfern Properties projects that will open this spring in Portland. “We are seeing the beginning of the reversal of the urban migration and we are seeing people willing to live in smaller spaces,” Redfern principal Jonathan Culley said.

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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.