2018-03-09 / Front Page

Alliance OKs Southgate grant

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

The Scarborough Housing Alliance voted Wednesday, Feb. 28 to provide Avesta Housing with a grant that will help the organization finish a project in West Scarborough. The project has experienced increased costs due to environmental remediation issues.

Avesta plans to redevelop the historic Southgate farmhouse at 577 Route 1 into eight one-bedroom apartments and build a 30- unit addition behind the existing building.

Representatives for Avesta, Matthew

Peters, vice president of real estate services, and Tyler Norod, development officer, met with alliance members on Feb. 28 to ask for a $100,000 grant from the affordable housing fund to help finish the project. The total cost of construction for Southgate is expected to be $5.5 million.

Alliance members voted unanimously 4-0 to send a recommendation to council to approve the grant, with alliance member Eric Boucher abstaining from the vote as he serves as senior vice president of finance and administration for Avesta Housing.

For Marj DeSanctis, chairman of the housing alliance, the Southgate project is a cause worthy of the alliance’s assistance.

“I feel like we’ve been waiting for this project for years, literally,” she said. “It’s really quite a substantial number of units that are all affordable. Everywhere else we get pieces of affordable. This one I would like to say yes. I think where I’m struggling is how to make an argument to town council why Scarborough is putting up the $100,000 of needed assistance.”

The Southgate units will be designed for individuals that make between 50 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. According to the 2017 Housing Facts and Affordability Index for Cumberland County from the Maine State Housing Authority, the median income for Scarborough was $82,882.

The index also said the median home price in Scarborough was $395,000 and the income needed to afford the median home price was $114,313. Cumberland County had the highest median home price in the state, $282,000, according to Maine Housing.

York County is the second most expensive, with a median home price of $255,000.

Peters said while the project would continue without the grant from Scarborough, Avesta Housing would experience difficulties funding future projects in southern Maine and New Hampshire if it didn’t receive assistance.

“From our perspective, the preference is a grant because Avesta is a mission based organization,” Peters said. “If we can’t get funding from (Scarborough) we will tap into our finite resources. The town of Scarborough has definitely expressed and shown its ability as a partner. It’s also an indication to other developers, should unexpected issues come along, the town is willing to continue to partner.”

DeSanctis said, depending on the exact number of units, developers in Scarborough are required to list 10 percent of a building’s units as affordable housing. Developers can also pay in lieu fees if they don’t want to create affordable housing spaces. Devine Capital LLC is currently building Gateway Commons, a 288-unit luxury condo project, and will contribute $700,000 to Scarborough’s affordable housing fund. This allows the alliance to continue helping organizations like Avesta. In January, the alliance agreed to recommend a $100,000 grant to the Bessey Commons expansion at 272 Route 1.

Town Manager Tom Hall said because Avesta approached the town asking for help, that was an indication of how meaningful their need is.

“This will further a partnership that started years ago,” Hall said. “This project still makes sense. It checks all our boxes. I like to think our partnership will extend beyond this project and that (Avesta) would like to partner in the future. I hope this gesture counts for something. However, there are no guarantees and I appreciate that.”

Staff Writer Grant McPherson can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

Return to top