Author: Hannah Yechivi (NEWS CENTER Maine)
Published: 12:40 PM EST December 27, 2023
PORTLAND, Maine — For many years now, the city of Portland has been looking for more affordable housing units. In the early 2000s, the Portland city council chose a number of parcels in the city to put up for competition for ideas to develop housing.
Maine Cooperative Development Partners won the rights from the city to develop three out of the four housing parcels. One project site is located by the Dougherty fields, and the other two are in the North Deering area.
The ones in North Deering will be a mix of low-income tax-credit apartments and "c-op" housing units.
Tax increment financing (TIF) will support the proposal for Lambert Woods North, which will be 72 low-income tax-credit apartments, for families earning up to 60% of the area median income (that's around $70,000 a year for a family of four).
To build those affordable housing units, MCDV has partnered with the Boston-based nonprofit developer Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH).
Cory Fellows is the vice president of real estate development for POAH.
Fellows said the recently approved TIF will make a big difference.
"One of the big challenges that we are seeing with affordable housing right now regardless of location is that the rents with affordable housing, you fix the rents so that people can afford to live there long-term, so your revenue from the rent side is capped, if you will. But the expenses are not, so you are still subject to increased utility costs, insurance costs have been a very big one in the industry, and local property taxes can be a big variable," Fellows said.
Lambert Woods South will be a 90-unit middle income cooperative, for households earning 80% to 100% of the area median income (that's around $120,000 a year for a family of 4). A partner of Maine Cooperative Development Partners, Liz Trice, said the co-op project will be the first of its kind in Portland.
"For a long time we've just had rentals where the prices tend to go up every year on people," Trice explained. "And then we have home ownership, which is really hard for a lot of people to get into, so we see that in other states there are different forms of ownership that allow people more steps up along the way. So it's kind of in between renting and owning in that it gives you cost-stable housing for a really long time but its not as hard to get into as home ownership."
Trice also explained that "co-op" housing is also a way of retaining public investment in the public ownership, so as long as people live there, they get to have stable housing costs like an owner.
"But they didn't have to get a mortgage at the beginning, and when they leave they don't get a windfall of increased equity," she said. "They get to get back their shared price, which is sort of like a down payment with appreciation, but they don't get to get a lot of money like if you had a bank loan."
Last but not least, Dougherty Commons project by the Dougherty fields will have a little bit of everything: low-income apartments, middle-income apartments, and middle-income condos that people can buy. Last week, the Portland city council approved to support the condo project with a $1.5M housing trust fund.
Trice said this whole project is one-of-a-kind.
"There's a bunch of things here. One, the city putting up their own land is innovative, the fact that they specifically asked for innovative models," she said. "And on these three parcels of land we have four different types of ownership and financing, so that's a really innovating thing that we hope that by doing all the hard work we've done for the past four years, that this will make it much easier to have new housing types in the future."
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