2017-10-13 / Front Page

Alliance assesses affordable options

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

Finding ways to increase the amount of affordable housing in Scarborough has been a longtime goal of town officials and for years. In the 2006 comprehensive plan recommended a portion of housing, including 10 percent of new housing “be affordable to low or moderate income households.”

The town has required developers to pay a $20,000 in-lieu fee if they choose not to set aside 10 percent of their units as affordable housing. Late last year, the town council tasked the Scarborough Housing Alliance to come up with a plan for how to use the money in the affordable housing fund.

Alliance Chairman Marj DeSanctis appeared before the town council last week to unveil the alliance’s plan. The strategy is to partner with affordable housing developers to “leverage our money for our partners and proactively submit projects for affordable housing in Scarborough.” The plan is not intended to target a particular demographic – say senior citizens or young families – and will include both private and nonprofit developers.

DeSanctis said projects that could benefit include Avesta Housing’s rehabilitation of the old Southgate House on Route 1, which has already been approved and may break ground soon, or the Bessey Commons expansion project.

The alliance will prepare a requests for proposals (RFP) in 2018 open to developers looking for funding, which can be used for land acquisition, infrastructure and/or building construction cost. A portion may also be used for planning, design or permitting.

The RFP language is still being worked out and will have to be approved by the council, but the alliance has recommended the awards will be time sensitive and have to be used within 36 months.

Councilor Peter Hayes said 36 months seemed to be “like a long time to have money tied up” with a developer, but DeSanctis said the natural cycle from the time the project is approved to when it goes out to bid to when it breaks ground is two years.

She told Caiazzo Scarborough Housing Alliance will be in touch with the developer throughout the entire 36-month period.

“It’s not a silent 36 months. It is a communicative period where we know what’s going on,” she said.

DeSanctis said there is $190,000 in the affordable housing fund right now, but a large windfall of $700,000 is expected to come from Devine Capital’s multi-phased Residences at Gateway Commons project on the corner of Haigis Parkway and Payne Road.

Which projects receive funding will be recommended by the alliance, but the council will have the final decision.

Although more work has to be done to determine how the process would work, the council seemed favorable to the idea.

“It’s nice to have a plan rather than putting money away and not knowing how to use it,” councilor Katy Foley said.

Fellow Councilor Kate St. Clair called the plan a “good first step.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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