Vacant Brunswick lot to become green, low-cost housing

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BRUNSWICK — A weedy, vacant lot on the corner of Cushing and Cumberland streets is being transformed into an energy-efficient affordable housing development.

Habitat for Humanity and the Greater Brunswick Housing Corp. are teaming up to build a three-unit condominium project across from the Tedford shelter.

While the groups have worked together before on single-family homes, like Hamilton Place in Harpswell, this is the first time they’re building condominiums, according to Peggie Siegel, director of development and communications at Habitat for Humanity/7 Rivers Maine.

Greater Brunswick Housing Corp. is the developer and selected the contractors, while Habitat is the project owner. Ultimately, the three families that Habitat chooses to live in the units will become the owners of the homes.

The family selection process can take up to nine months, and thus far only one family has been chosen. Families selected by Habitat usually have to work alongside contractors and volunteers to build their future home, but Siegel said this project was different.

“These families are going to be doing sweat-equity for other non-profits or for us in some capacity,” she said. The families may also help with the finish work or construction of storage sheds.

All three must meet income and credit guidelines to qualify, and must be employed so that they can repay a low- or no-interest mortgage.

The mortgages are subsidized by the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, created as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The goal of the project is to revitalize areas affected by foreclosure and abandonment.

The downtown Brunswick project qualified because it is replacing a vacant lot, according to Martin Szydlowski, director of housing development at the Greater Brunswick Housing Corp.

The federal funding allowed Habitat to reduce the price of the units to around $100,000, according to Szydlowski.

In addition to being affordable, the new condos are also energy efficient.

Steven Theodore, the project architect from Arrowsic-based Theodore & Theodore, said the units will be highly insulated, which will reduce heating costs for the residents. The buildings will be positioned facing south for better natural heating and cooling, and have efficient propane boilers to heat water on demand, instead of traditional hot water heaters, which keep water hot all day long.

Around the outside of the buildings, Theodore envisions edible landscaping like blueberry bushes and fruit trees. There will also be garden space and covered outdoor porches. He said the buildings would fit in with the character of the densely populated neighborhood and would resemble older Brunswick homes.

Construction began in early August and should be completed by the winter, allowing the families to move in shortly thereafter.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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Construction has begun on an affordable housing project on the corner of Cushing and Cumberland streets in Brunswick.

Formerly a vacant lot, the corner of Cushing and Cumberland streets is being transformed into a three-unit affordable housing development.