BY JOHN TERHUNE TIMES RECORD
Maine State Housing Authority funds will support the construction of the two-bedroom units, which will be rented to households making no more than 80% of the Sagadahoc County median income.
Bath Housing Development Corporation will build 18 new affordable housing units within walking distance of downtown Bath, according to a press release. The multi-unit building, which according to Bath Housing Executive Director Deb Keller will be the organization’s first new development since 1984, aims to combat a shortage of workforce housing.
“The reality is we just can’t get enough done fast enough if we keep doing smaller scale projects,” Keller said. “Workers offered jobs in this region can’t find places to live within a reasonable commuting distance. Seniors who want to live in smaller, accessible homes can’t find options to downsize. Families who want to move here are outbid on every house.”
The Maine State Housing Authority awarded Bath Housing Development Corporation a notice to proceed on the project last week, meaning it has set aside funds to pay for the 18 two-bedroom rental units, Keller said. Bath Housing hopes to finalize its plans and begin construction in a year, at which point MaineHousing will provide the money for the project, which Keller estimates will cost just over $5 million.
MaineHousing’s new Rural Affordable Housing Rental Program, a $20 million initiative funded in part by Gov. Janet Mills’ Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan, will support the project with a $3.33 million forgivable loan, Keller said. She praised the program for targeting smaller communities that have struggled to build affordable housing due to current market forces that strongly incentivize developers to pursue market-rate construction.
The new units, which could be completed in two years, will be restricted to households earning less than 80% of Sagadahoc County’s area median income. Depending on the size of the household, that cap will likely be between $50,000 and $70,000 according to Keller.
That income range will make the new units accessible to the “missing middle,” earners who don’t qualify for the most heavily subsidized housing but also can’t afford market-rate builds.
Though it hasn’t constructed new buildings in decades, Bath Housing has led renovations and worked with developers to help facilitate projects like the upcoming 50-unit “Uptown,” according to the organization’s website.
“Bath Housing has a solid track record of putting together housing developments and is a trusted, capable partner,” MaineHousing Development Director Mark Wiesendanger wrote in a statement.
While Keller called the current state of housing in Bath “dismal,” she said the organization is hard at work to meet the need for housing options at all levels.
“Basically, we want to celebrate the fact that there are long-term solutions coming,” she said. “There are a large number of people here working on our housing issues in this area and really committed to making this community accessible to everybody.”