Belfast officials are hoping a slate of 21 ordinance amendments will help create more housing opportunities in the city, which is dealing with low housing stock and a lack of affordable housing.
At its meeting on Wednesday, the Belfast Planning Board approved the amendment recommendations, which will now go to the City Council for consideration. The amendments would create new zoning districts across the city that allow for more multi-family units known as “flex housing.”
“We wanted to create as many housing options as possible,” said Wayne Marshall, project planner with the Planning and Codes Department.
The City Council is expected to have a first reading of the amendments on Jan. 17.
Belfast, like many Maine communities, has been dealing with a housing shortage for years that’s been compounded by a lack of new development. Since the 2008 market crash, Belfast has only issued around 10 to 20 new housing permits each year, according to Wayne Marshall of the Planning and Codes Department.
In April, the City Council passed a series of amendments that in part created a concept, definition and formula for “flex housing projects.” Flex housing creates a sliding scale for how much can be built on a piece of land based on the size of lots and whether the property is connected to a public sewer.
A two-acre property, for instance, is allowed as many as three buildings, each with up to four dwelling units, if they meet certain criteria.
The new recommended amendments would expand the number of zoning districts that permit flex housing to 17. Belfast has 24 housing districts. All but the bypass zone in downtown Belfast would be able to create flex housing, Marshall said.
“We’re hoping that at some point that our regulations create enough opportunity that we’re the market will come in and try to build,” Marshall said.