A local housing agency is aiming to add more than 100 affordable apartments for seniors split across three buildings in Bangor, the first of which is well under construction.
On Monday, Bangor city councilors unanimously approved giving $2 million in pandemic relief funding to support BangorHousing’s initiative, which will eventually add 132 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments for people aged 55 and older.
Both BangorHousing leaders and city councilors believe the swell of new affordable apartments for seniors will bolster Bangor’s housing stock, ease the area’s housing crunch and free up other homes for families and young adults starting their careers. That trickle down effect could eventually free up housing for people looking to move to Bangor for a new job, but previously couldn’t find an affordable place to live.
“We have a huge need for seniors and we need to address that, but we also have a need for workforce housing,” said Michael Myatt, executive director of BangorHousing. “I’ve heard about corporations who have lost recruits over housing situations. The idea of freeing up workforce housing is going to help our economy in a huge way.”
This initiative will also shorten BangorHousing’s existing senior housing waitlist, which is six to seven years long, Myatt said.
“In Maine, where we are the oldest state in the country, we see a tsunami of seniors coming our way with the majority of our population being over 60, and that trend is going to continue,” Myatt said. “The people at the top of our waitlist now first applied in 2017.”
The first building, which is now under construction, sits at 294 Davis Road and contains 32 one-bedroom apartments, Cindy Witas, BangorHousing development director, said. Construction on the two-story building, which BangorHousing named Blueberry Ridge, began in August of last year and will likely wrap up in October.
BangorHousing hopes to add another two-building apartment complex on undeveloped land between Sunset and Texas avenues, a portion of which BangorHousing is working to purchase from the University of Maine in Augusta.
Both of the buildings would contain another 48 one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments for seniors. The agency plans to add raised garden beds, green space and walking trails that give residents easy access to the UMaine in Augusta campus.
“UMA has a great senior program that’s extremely affordable and will make a huge difference in the lives of our tenants,” Witas said.
The rent for 30 of the one-bedroom units will be $763, about 50 percent of area median income, and the other 18 units will be rented at $915, or 60 percent of area median income, Witas said. The two two-bedroom units will be rented at 60 percent area median income, or about $1,098.
BangorHousing is still finalizing the project plan, and applied for low income tax credits from MaineHousing, but Myatt hopes construction on the second phase of the project can begin in spring 2024 and finish in fall 2025.
BangorHousing anticipates the total project cost will sit around $16.4 million.
The $2 million award from the city will cover the cost of extending city utilities, including water and sewer lines, up Texas Avenue, which is not a city street, to the site where the new housing will be built.
Councilor Gretchen Schaefer said she fully supports BangorHousing’s projects because it will be accessible for those with mobility limitations, something many of Bangor’s existing apartment units are not.
“Too many of our apartments are beautiful, old, lumberman mansions where you have to go up two flights of stairs to get to your apartment,” Schaefer said. “That doesn’t work when you have accessibility issues.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of buildings proposed by BangorHousing and the total number of units. It has been updated.