Bangor wants to make it easier for residents to use large, historic homes as boarding houses where people can rent rooms long term.
It’s one strategy the city is considering to grow the supply of housing units, make housing more affordable and encourage denser development as Bangor faces twin crises of high prices and low inventory for renters and prospective homebuyers alike.
Residents received letters this month informing them that the Planning Board was considering changes to the city’s code to formally allow boarding houses in neighborhoods throughout the city as a potential solution to a dearth of available rental units and to offset rising housing costs.
Bangor code currently groups boarding houses and bed-and-breakfasts together under the same regulations, planning officer Anne Krieg said. So the newly proposed ordinance separately defines and lays out requirements for both categories.
Boarding houses are buildings that have three or more rooms for longer-term rent and which have shared access to a central kitchen and other common spaces, similar to an apartment building.
The changes the city is proposing stem from a 2019 report from a city affordable housing work group, which recommended that the city pursue denser development as one way to address the city’s affordable housing challenges.
Shared housing is a rising trend among younger and older people alike as the demand for housing has shifted from single-family homes to shared units in downtown districts and other urban areas, Krieg said.
It also lowers the costs of living and upkeep for people in historic homes, preventing them from falling into disrepair, she said.
The city’s boarding house rules would apply both to new construction and existing structures being used as shared housing.
The areas that the city has targeted include historic districts, downtown and residential districts. The amendment would also reduce parking requirements in residential districts, which often hinder development.
Boarding houses would be allowed in low-density residential areas, provided they were located on heavily trafficked streets like Broadway or Hammond and Ohio streets.
The planning board will host a public meeting about the proposed amendment on March 1 at 7 p.m.