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Bath council adopts strategy to rejuvenate housing

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Bath council adopts strategy to rejuvenate housing

BATH — The City Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted an analysis for housing revitalization in and around the city.

The evaluation stems from a recent study into possible housing improvements, and areas of sustainable development within the city.

Bath Housing – an organization focused on improving housing stability for families, seniors and people with disabilities in the Bath area – commissioned outside consultant Planning Decisions to conduct the study.

The study, which covers the history and future of housing in the Bath market, was about "trying to figure out what we had for assets and liabilities ... and how we might be able to develop meaningful policies to positively impact the future of Bath's housing," Scott LaFlamme, director of Bath's Office of Community Development, told the council Wednesday.

The council adopted the assessment without comment.

The study presented several findings, such as:

  • One of six Bath households includes a disabled person.
  • Bath home and rental values are lower than in the surrounding marketing area.

  • The city is in a good position to take advantage of growth in the future, but such growth adds pressure on residents with low incomes, since a greater demand for housing means higher home prices and rents.

  • And Bath must improve its "brand" to bring in greater residential development.

The Community Development Committee recommended adoption of several goals for implementation of the plan and revitalizing housing, according to the order approved Wednesday by the council:

  • Forming policies geared toward "rehabilitating and/or repurposing vacant foreclosures, tax-acquired properties and neighborhood spot blight," to improve the housing stock, improve neighborhood culture and restore taxable value.

  • Working the next decade on improving existing residential units, or spaces that could be made into apartments, for optimal usage, while encouraging alternative energy sources.

  • Ensuring that disabled and aging people can afford to live comfortably, and manage maintenance and safety concerns.

  • Aiming for housing stability "by identifying supply-and-demand needs, gauging the quality of Bath's housing stock, identifying potential development parcels ... and developing such parcels."

  • And backing new residential constriction in the next two decades to match restrictions and needs of future residents.

The plan mentions eight sites that could be developed for housing. Among those are the former John E.L. Huse Memorial School on Andrews Road, which the Szanton Co. plans to convert to mixed-income rental housing, and the historic "Coal Pocket" property on Commercial Street, where JHR Development intends to develop five condominium buildings along the Kennebec River.

Also included is the vacant lot on Summer Street where the city's YMCA stood before being demolished in 2012.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.