Portland affordable-housing proposals: West End advances, Bayside slows

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

PORTLAND — Proposals by affordable housing developer Avesta Housing met mixed fates June 10 at the City Council Housing and Community Development Committee.

The committee, chaired by Councilor Kevin Donoghue, unanimously recommended setting up a tax increment finance zone at 17 Carleton St. in the West End to help fund a 37-unit housing project built on what is now a parking lot.

But councilors also unanimously postponed action on a proposal Avesta submitted for the future use of Department of Public Services land at 52 Alder and 65 Hanover streets in Bayside.

The panel expects to continue the Bayside discussion on July 8.

The committee also recommended the full City Council OK acquisition of land and a 69,000-square-foot warehouse and offices at 250 Canco Road for Public Services, and amend the Bayside TIF agreement to use funds to study the effects of sea level rise.

The recommendation for a TIF at 17 Carleton St. would allow Avesta to annually recapture almost $30,000 of increased tax value over 22 years for the 37-unit building.

A June 6 memo from Housing and Community Development Director Mary Davis said the project would contain 12 efficiency, 23 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom units.

The apartments would be marketed to people earning from 40 percent to 60 percent of the area median income, or at most just over $30,000 for a family of four, Seth Parker, Avesta’s real estate development director, said.

Drew Wing, the agency’s development officer, said preliminary site plan review with the Planning Board has begun. Avesta also hosted a neighborhood meeting about the project at Reiche School on June 11.

Conceptual plans show the four-story building would front Carleton Street and have about 30 parking spaces. Rents are expected to range from $540 to $1,040.

The TIF is unusual in that it allows Avesta to recapture 65 percent of the increased tax value, as opposed to 50 percent. Parker said the limited number of two-bedroom units is due to Maine State Housing Authority guidelines that consider cost per unit in granting the low-income housing tax credits used to finance affordable housing projects.

“It is really forcing us to build smaller units,” Parker said. Low-income housing tax credits are used to draw investors to projects by offering tax credits spread over 10 years.

Avesta hopes to build as many as 60 housing units in two phases on land now occupied by the Department of Public Services.

The nonprofit agency offered the only response to a March request for proposals for the 0.65-acre parcel, and has asked the city to give it the parcels at no cost. Environmental remediation costs at the sites are estimated at $147,000

Avesta is proposing a two-phase approach, first targeting 40 units for people earning between 50 percent and 60 percent of the average median income, and then building 20 “workforce” condominiums to be marketed to people earning up to 100 percent of the area median income.

All work is proposed to be done by 2019.

Councilor David Marshall agreed with Donoghue that any delay should be a short one, but the committee would also like to see more workforce housing included in the first phase.

Councilor David Brenerman said he was concerned about giving the land away, especially since owners of Bayside Bowl just paid $340,000 for a nearby parcel of land used by the DPS.

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

Avesta Housing plans to build 37 units at the front of this parking lot at 17 Carleton St. in Portland’s West End. The agency is seek tax increment financing from the city to help fund the project.

A conceptual sketch of a proposed housing development by Avesta Housing would convert part of a Carleton Street parking lot to 37 units, while leaving access to parking behind the building through a passageway.

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.