Penquis Housing Development Director Jason Bird speaks during an opening ceremony of a new housing unit on Grandview Avenue in Bangor in October 2021. Credit: David Marino Jr. / BDN

A Bangor social services agency expects to break ground on a 40-unit affordable housing apartment building in the coming months with a neighboring 40-unit one planned for next year.

Penquis CAP is planning to build two three-story affordable housing apartment buildings on a piece of undeveloped land behind Mary Snow School in Bangor the agency bought about three years ago, Jason Bird, Penquis housing development director, said.

Though the two buildings will bring 80 new units of affordable housing to Bangor at a time when the city has been struggling to combat both a dearth of housing and a growing homelessness crisis, the units will “only scratch the surface in terms of meeting demand,” Bird said.

“We could build 500 or 600 units overnight and maybe meet the current housing demand that’s out there,” he said. “You can’t find anyone, either you personally or within your circle, who hasn’t struggled with finding an affordable home to rent or buy in the past several years.”

how bangor is tackling its housing shortage

The two buildings will be built off Milford Street Extension, a short road that runs from Essex Street to the Mary Snow School parking lot.

Penquis has pursued building housing there for years, but it has faced opposition from neighbors who feared developments could reduce the market value of nearby properties and bring more traffic to an area where children play.

The first three-story building, Milford Place, will hold 40 one-bedroom units for adults ages 55 and older. The building has been designed, permitted and funded, but Penquis is now waiting on final construction cost estimates from the contractors, Bird said.

Rent for those units will be affordable for people who are making 60 percent or less than median area income, as set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bird said.

Preliminary cost estimates put the project around $11 million, but final estimates are needed to gain construction loans from MaineHousing, Bird said. If everything continues as expected, construction will likely begin this summer or fall at the latest.

Meanwhile, Penquis is seeking permitting and site plan approval for a neighboring apartment building, Essex View. The building will hold workforce and family housing with a combination of two- and three-bedroom units ranging from 1,000 to 1,200 square feet, Bird said. Rents have not been determined, as it will likely be two years before families can move in.

Bangor’s housing crunch

Next, the agency will finalize financing applications with MaineHousing by later this summer, Bird said. Construction will likely begin next spring, assuming Penquis can secure the necessary financing and permits.

The two new apartment buildings are in the works alongside an existing building that Penquis is working to turn into 41 units of permanent housing for people who are homeless.

The agency recently purchased the former Pine Tree Inn on Cleveland Street in Bangor, using a $200,000 grant from the city, after a year-long sale agreement that left the former owner of the inn in limbo. Meanwhile, a nearby homeless encampment grew, driving away guests and staff, according to John Karnes, the former owner.

Bird anticipates construction on the inn will wrap up by Thanksgiving, allowing people to move in as the winter chill settles over Maine.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...