Boothbay approves $50K in ARPA funds for housing project

Sat, 09/17/2022 - 8:45am

Boothbay selectmen gave two “big thumbs-up” Sept. 14 to a proposal geared toward alleviating the region’s workforce housing shortage. Selectmen voted unanimously to provide $50,000 from municipal American Rescue Plan Act funds and write a letter supporting Boothbay Region Development Corporation’s effort to seek additional grants and funding. 

The group provided an overview of its progress to Boothbay selectmen and requested help making the plan a reality. “It’s not a new idea, but here are the steps we’ve taken. A lot of people spent their time, energy, and money investigating affordable housing, and the next steps to take,” said  Erin Cooperrider, BRDC’s vice-president and treasurer.

BRDC is a local group using its housing expertise to provide long sought-after workforce housing. The group’s three principals are Cooperrider, President Steve Malcom and Secretary Susan Witt. Cooperrider is an experienced housing developer. She spent 17 years as the Community Housing of Maine director. She now manages project design, permitting, financing and construction for New Height Group, a Maine-based real estate development firm in Portland. 

She presented the group’s four-phase plan for bringing affordable housing to the region. “The BRDC has sought and found a site large enough to make a significant contribution to the local housing stock that is affordable and available to the workforce,” she said. “The 36-acre site was not previously for sale, and the owner strongly supports housing our workforce.” Upon completion, the site is projected to include 162 housing units, according to Cooperrider. 

Phase 1 includes land acquisition and extension of water and sewer to the site. Phase 2 is a “proof of concept” for affordable home ownership targeted to households between 80% and 100% of area medium income. Her research showed household income between $64,000 and $87,000 for a family of four met the criteria. Cooperrider believed the first available housing wouldn’t occur for at least two more years. The group envisions selling 1,200 square foot homes at a below-market, subsidized cost.

“It will create eight for sale homes priced at $287,000. Future phases may include multi-family apartment buildings, single-family homes and condominiums. The goal is creating a range of choices, both for sale and for rent, and affordable to our workforce at a range of income levels,” she said. 

The corporation reached out to local employers in determining the magnitude of housing needs and collecting demographic data identifying suitable finance programs. Project capital has already been secured from private donors. She reported BRDC has raised $1.35 million from private sources. The corporation is seeking an additional $2.1 million in private capital, and $800,000 in local and state funds. “Yielding a 40/60% split of public to private funds for the first two phases. Follow-on phases will be self-funding or use public financing sources exclusively,” she said. 

Phase 2 requires an additional $540,000 in private capital and $1.3 million in public funding. Phases 3 and 4 envision two-multifamily projects: One for seniors, another for families. These developments would include a community green, play area, and townhouses for sale.  

Chairman Dale Harmon spoke for the board in stating how impressed they were with the project. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve heard about workforce, affordable housing in a good many years,” he said. Selectman Steve Lewis asked if the project had safeguards from buyers using the subsidized housing as seasonal or rental properties. Cooperrider explained if buyers violated the terms, they would be required to pay back the subsidy. 

Lewis appreciated the volunteer efforts of Cooperrider, Malcom and Witt. “I tip my hat to you people. You’ve done a lot of work for a volunteer organization. It’s something that’s been talked about for a long time, and you’ve done something about it,” he said.

BRDC plans to make a similar request to Boothbay Harbor selectmen later this month.