Bangor’s city council will take up a measure on Monday to approve $200,000 in grant funding to help community nonprofit Penquis build another affordable housing project in the city.
The project, initially announced in February 2020, will create 39 new units of affordable multi-family housing on about 5 acres of private land on Milford Street Extension, the short road that runs from Essex Street to the Mary Snow School.
It will also fold in a now-canceled 39-unit older adult housing project that was to be a partnership between Penquis and St. Joseph Hospital, which was originally proposed for four lots along Broadway and on Congress and French streets. That project, now solely under the purview of Penquis, will also be located at the Milford Street property, resulting in 78 units there with the two projects combined.
Penquis housing development director Jason Bird said that the organization had to rethink its plan for both projects when it became clear last summer that construction costs had risen dramatically, due to several factors including a labor shortage, an increase in the price of lumber and new costs associated with running power and water to the Milford Street site.
With the project getting more expensive, the organization decided to ask the city to help shoulder some of the cost.
“Our original cost estimate for the project began to stop being tenable, once costs began to skyrocket,” Bird said. “But this site is really the ideal site for housing, because it’s quiet, it’s near schools and other amenities. You can create a sense of community. We didn’t want to give up on it, and that’s the foundation of our request to the city.”
The funds will come from Bangor’s Community Development Block Grant funding. The grant would also allow the city to have access to a designated number of units in the project where it could place clients receiving general assistance.
In February 2020, the Bangor City Council unanimously approved rezoning two parcels on that road so that single- and multi-family units could be developed there. That measure was met with some opposition from people with properties abutting the empty lot, as well as by Mary Snow School principal Brian Bannon, who raised concerns about an increase of traffic when students are arriving at and leaving school. A traffic study will be done for that road.
Penquis currently owns 12 affordable housing properties in eastern Maine, including four in Bangor. It completed work on an older adult housing project on Grandview Avenue in Bangor, near Bangor High School, in October 2020, and will finish up another 39-unit project on that same property later this fall.
A study done by a city of Bangor housing task force in 2019 found that there was a major deficit of affordable housing in the city, and that around 1,000 new units would be needed to meet the immediate need. Between the Grandview Avenue and Milford Street projects, Penquis will end up with more than 150 units by the time all those projects are completed, which Bird estimates would be sometime in late 2023 or early 2024.
“This will help fill that gap, along with other homegrown development and other projects in the area,” Bird said.
With council approval of the $200,000 grant, Bird said, Penquis will likely break ground on the senior housing development first, followed by the family housing.