Scarborough wrestles with demand for rental housing

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SCARBOROUGH — With 127 new multi-family residential units approved and more than 700 more proposed, officials are grappling with the town’s changing identity. 

Town councilors, staff and committee members met Wednesday night in a workshop to discuss how the landscape of the town and its residents are changing in light of Scarborough’s growing inventory of residential projects, many of which are market-rate rentals.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a great need for three- and four-bedroom single-family homes, Town Planner Dan Bacon said.

Now, as housing demands shift and more people want to rent, there’s a need for a variety of multi-family buildings offering housing stock like one- and two-bedroom apartments, Bacon said. 

With a 1 percent vacancy rate for rentals in Portland, and an influx of millennials who gravitate toward renting rather purchasing a home, the town has seen more interest from developers who want to build rental housing. Most recently, the Town Council approved last month of 72 new market-rate rental units on 11 acres off Mussey Road.

Factoring in the projection that the rental market is expected to continue growing beyond 2018, the question is how to best adapt, Scarborough Economic Development Corp. President Karen Martin said at the Dec. 14 workshop. 

For example, on Haigis Parkway – a fairly isolated area the town has had difficulty marketing to developers – multifamily housing could be a catalyst for other economic development in the corridor between Route 1 and Payne Road, Martin said. 

“I think it does start to create some vibrancy,.” she said. “We think there’s a role for multi-family housing in creating this interesting and hopefully inviting corridor.”

But at least one councilor cautioned against having such a formative conversation without constituents having a say. 

“We, as a town, need to figure out what type of growth we want,” Councilor Peter Hayes said. “What kind of town do our constituencies want? … That’s got to be part of this.”

Hayes said the town needs time for the information to spread and constituents need to have time to weigh in.

“This needs to have more time to percolate; we need to have more time to get feedback,” he said. 

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or aacquisto@theforecaster.net. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.