Portland seeks proposals for affordable housing in Bayside

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PORTLAND — A City Council committee Wednesday night will consider potential proposals for affordable housing on city-owned land in West Bayside.

The Housing and Community Development Committee, chaired by Councilor Kevin Donoghue, has asked city planning staff for revisions on a request for proposals that could lead to the construction of at least 20 housing units at 65 Hanover St. and 52 Alder St.

City Planner Jeff Levine on Feb. 5 said the draft request was revised to mix market-rate units and units priced at about 80 percent of the area median income into the original plan to build housing for people earning from 80 percent to 100 percent of the area median income.

That income level ranges from $62,000 to $74,000, depending on family size.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Bluestone Planning Group and local offices of Stantec were commissioned to evaluate and report on future uses of the properties, now occupied by the city Public Services Department.

The city proposal suggests giving away the land, valued at $797,000, to a qualified developer. More funding could come from the city Housing Trust Fund or money set aside from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.

Asking for more money may not help a developer’s chances.

“Strong preference will be given to proposals where the value of the property is the only source of subsidy by the City of Portland,” the RFP says.

Any developer awarded the proposal would have to guarantee the homes meet area median income levels for 90 years, and ban smoking in the development.

The Hanover and Alder street sites total about 30,000 square feet and will also require environmental remediation of contaminated soil.

The land was previously considered for the Portland Arts and Creative Enterprise, a quasi-municipal effort to create work spaces and a retail site for artisans in conjunction with Creative Portland and the University of Southern Maine. But City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said that plan is on hold.

The Alder and Hanover Street sites were also supposed to be vacated when city departments moved to the former Nelson & Small appliance distributorship on Canco Road.

Last spring, City Councilors approved a lease-purchase plan for the Canco Road building, but it was put on hold because of a discretionary spending freeze while the city waits for the resolution of a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Health and Human Services over general purpose aid reimbursements for assistance given to immigrants who lack legal documentation.

The Bluestone study looked at a variety of housing options before recommending 23 units as the most cost-effective and marketable approach to creating affordable housing.

The RFP draft proposes awarding points for both maximizing the number of units allowed in the area, and the number of units that would available at or below the area median income standards.

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

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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.