Residents and city officials in Cape Elizabeth are split over a proposal to construct more affordable housing units there.
The town, along with Lewiston and Old Orchard Beach, may soon see affordable housing projects built by The Szanton Co. to bring workforce housing to Maine.
“There’s so many workers who are in the middle to lower end of the wage scale who can’t afford to live in the community where they work, and we’re trying to make a dent in that,” said Nathan Szanton, president of The Szanton Co.
At its Dunham Court project in Cape Elizabeth, 80 percent of the apartments would be considered “affordable” — with rents from $1,080 to $1,300 — with 20 percent at the market price of $1,495 to $1,695.
The pushback from residents in town is unlike any opposition the company has faced before, Szanton said.
Some residents are concerned that the original plan, to have new business in the area, would be better.
“This town needs more retail,” Leslie Young said. “We don’t have enough to offer in the community here.”
She also said the apartment building goes against the town’s height requirement.
“And they’ve held a lot of people to that standard for many years,” Young said.
Other locals support the project, arguing that affordable housing is crucial to provide for those who need it.
“The need is there, and we have to do what we have to do for people,” Linda Maxwell said. “I mean, the people have to have places to live.”
It’s unclear exactly where the Town Council stands on the affordable housing project, but Councilor Caitlin Jordan said it’s a no for her. The land is zoned for business, not residences, she said.
“Much like the community, the council has differences of opinion on the issue,” Council Chair Jamie Garvin said.
Garvin said he hopes the project moves forward.
“We haven’t done any substantial affordable housing development in this community in almost 50 years,” Garvin said.
Szanton said tenants would include young adults who grew up in Cape Elizabeth and want to stay there, as well as elderly residents looking to downsize.
“We’re also trying to provide this product for people who already serve the town with their jobs, but can’t afford to live in town,” Szanton said.
The council must first vote on ordinance changes.
Garvin said if those don’t pass, the complex won’t be built.