Housing affordability challenges persist in Maine
The word is out: Maine really is the way life should be. We’re on the map as a great place to live; and now that more people can work remotely, the state has become a relocation hotspot, with buyers fiercely competing for limited housing stock at never-before-seen prices. And while sellers, landlords, and communities in general have welcomed the economic boost, one downside is that some residents (especially renters) are getting squeezed out of their once-affordable homes.
Even before the recent real estate boom, housing costs were starting to outpace what many working Mainers could afford. The pain is felt most acutely by people such as service workers who cannot work remotely, as well as seniors on fixed incomes. Lack of affordability also exacerbates sprawl, with many folks who can’t afford housing near urban centers forced to keep moving further away from work.
Affordable housing developments are one solution. In Maine, these developments are typically built in downtown/Main Street type areas that are already developed, so the added density has less of an impact on infrastructure.
Our affordable housing development expertise
St.Germain has worked with various local housing authorities on multiple projects, which often receive funding from Maine Housing.
Created by the Maine State Legislature in 1969, Maine Housing is an independent authority that addresses problems of unsafe, unsuitable, overcrowded, and unaffordable housing. Maine Housing couples the efficiencies of the private financial markets with public purpose goals to provide affordable home ownership and rental housing opportunities for Mainers.
Here are some recent affordable housing development projects that St.Germain was part of:
Thornton Heights Commons (South Portland)
Located at the site of the abandoned St. John’s Church at 611 Main Street in South Portland, this property features a newly constructed four-story mixed-use (affordable housing and commercial) building with parking and shared open space, plus three new single-family house lots. The residential portion of the building includes 42 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, a common room, on-site laundry, a trash room, and indoor bike storage.
St.Germain helped South Portland Housing Authority maximize Thornton Heights Commons’ parking area and develop critical stormwater management structures that were integral to the parking lot. We were part of a great design team that was able to implement features such as solar photovoltaic roof panels, infrastructure for electric vehicle charging, and community gardens.
Landry Woods (South Portland)
The Landry Woods project is the expansion of Landry Village, a circle of one-story, mid-1970s buildings in South Portland that have 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments for elderly and disabled people. The new three-story building will add 44 affordable one-bedroom apartments that will be rented to people ages 55 and older with household income that is at or below 50 to 60 percent of the area median income.
St.Germain designed a robust stormwater system for the new building, obtained state and local land permits, and worked with the design team on climate-friendly features such as rooftop solar panels and support for electric vehicle charging. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023.
Betsy Ross House Expansion (South Portland)
This project is an expansion of the existing Betsy Ross House facility at 99 Preble Street in South Portland, which contains 123 affordable units for seniors 62 and over.
The new six-story building, to be named Betsy Ross House Crossing, will contain 52 residential apartments for seniors 62 years and older. It will include a community room, bike storage room, entry/seating/mail room, trash room, and laundry on every other floor. The new building will be connected to the existing building with resident access to its community spaces, library, manager’s office, and full-service café. The site also features solar panels and an outdoor patio/seating area with direct access to the Greenbelt Walkway.
St.Germain jumped into this project early, working with the design team on the challenge of fitting the new building into a tight space. We also designed new stormwater management structures, obtained a Maine DEP stormwater permit, and worked with the team to add new parking and improve access to the Greenbelt Walkway. Construction is expected to begin in 2023.
Maple Grove (Westbrook)
On Seavey Street in Westbrook, Avesta Housing and New Ventures are partnering to transform a 3.15-acre parcel into 192 new units, including affordable housing for 55+ and workforce housing for individuals of all ages. St.Germain is currently working with the design team on a final layout, engineering, and permit applications for this project, likely to be constructed in 2023.
We help these projects succeed
Given our expertise in civil engineering and environmental due diligence, including lender requirements, St.Germain is uniquely poised to offer affordable housing developers a wide range of services. Some of these include:
- What is the land history? Are there any environmental contaminants that could pose a threat to residents or require costly cleanup?
- Are there existing wetlands or other natural resources that may require protection and could be incorporated into the site design?
- Does the site have appropriate zoning for the project goals and are there adequate support services for residents in the area?
- Is there enough room to park cars, bikes, and electric vehicles?
- How can we best implement effective stormwater management systems?
Best practice considerations
- Can low-impact development (LID) stormwater features be incorporated into the design in a cost-effective manner?
- What layout best integrates with existing features and provides the best solar orientation?
- Are there ways to reduce parking/pavement areas with transportation alternatives and electrical vehicle charging stations?
- Can green space and landscape design be incorporated into required stormwater treatment structures?
- When do permits need to be obtained in order to meet state and federal funding requirements?
- Are there site features and design criteria that enhance our client’s funding options?
If we could assist with a project you have in mind, or if you’d like to learn more, call us at (207) 591-7000.