Avesta is in talks with two developers to make new apartments available for asylum seekers and their families. Credit: CBS 13

New apartments may soon be available for asylum seekers and their families.

Right now, Avesta Housing is negotiating the rental terms with the developers for two properties in Greater Portland.

Asylum seekers from Angola said they’re eager to apply for the new apartments.

The state will pay the rent for the apartments until the asylum seekers are able to secure jobs, and it will cost a lot less than the public dollars being shelled out to local hotels.

Domingo Zembeca and his wife are asylum seekers from Angola, seeking a better life for their three children away from the corruption in their homeland where, according to the World Bank, half of Angolans live on less than $2 a day.

Zembeca and dozens of Angolan asylum seekers are now living in a South Portland hotel and are often turned away when apartments open up.

“He’s saying it’s very difficult for him to find an apartment,” a translator for Zembeca said. “He says he has applied, but there is no housing around.”

Fellow Angolan Ndoma Tesu also lives in a hotel room, with his wife and four children.

“It’s not a decent life,” a translator for Tesu said. “It’s very difficult for him.”

Zembeca said his hotel room is starting to feel like a prison cell.

“Here it looks like you’re in a cell,” a translator for Zembeca said. “Your freedom is compromised. It would be better for him to have a place that he can call his home.”

Avesta Housing is negotiating contracts with two housing developments now under construction to provide 100 apartments exclusively for asylum seekers and their families now staying in hotels at a cost of $200 to $300 a night.

That’s more than $7,000 a month.

Avesta’s executive director said this will save significant public dollars.

He said asylum seekers can’t compete for apartments because the federal government doesn’t allow them to work yet, they have no income and they’re not eligible for Section 8 vouchers.

This plan could be life changing.

“If that were to happen today, he would be very glad,” a translator for Tesu said. “He wouldn’t know how to react. Such a joy it would be for him and his family.”

For now, Avesta is keeping the apartment locations under wraps until an agreement is reached.

Only then can asylum seekers apply, but Avesta hopes families can start moving in this fall.

MaineHousing has also given $750,000 into the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project to help asylum seekers attain asylum and work authorization.