AUGUSTA — An Augusta Housing Authority proposal would put 34 units of townhouse-style rental housing, with a target audience of low-to-moderate-income working people, on a back section of the city-owned Kennebec Lockes site.

Amanda Bartlett, executive director of the quasi-municipal local housing authority, said the project would create new “workforce housing,” and the units would be a mix of two- and three-bedroom residences that would be rented for $555 to $924 a month. Tenants could be of any age but would be restricted to people earning less than 60 percent of median area income and who also make about 2.5 times more, per month, than the monthly rent amount.

Bartlett said the city continues to have a shortage of safe, quality housing. She said 500 units of rental housing have been lost, or are at risk of being lost, in Augusta since 2013 because of fires or serious code issues.

“Replenishment of the housing stock hasn’t kept pace with the need,” Bartlett said. “So the housing authority has revisited our strategic plan and talked about the need and what we can do as a housing authority, and that we need to make development a key focus as we move forward. We’re looking at the Kennebec Lockes site as a potential site for housing development.”

The development would be on about 2.5 acres of the 20-acre former Statler Mill site, seized by the city for nonpayment of taxes in 2009. The site would be at the end of Maple Street, on the nonriverfront side of the property, which has about a mile of frontage on the Kennebec River.

Bartlett said the housing authority essentially would need to obtain the land free, or cheaply, from the city, and would seek a tax break to help make the project financially feasible. It also would tap into federal affordable housing tax credits for financing.

“When you are able to provide land and (tax increment financing), we can truly make the magic happen, with development housing that wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” Bartlett told city councilors when she pitched the idea to them Thursday.

Councilors didn’t vote on the proposal but did express informal support for it.

Mayor David Rollins said a meeting of the TIF Committee would be scheduled as soon as possible to discuss the parameters of a possible TIF deal to help the project.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the project could be a good match for the city property, which officials hope to see redeveloped with a mix of housing, retail, office and commercial space but which, so far, has not attracted any private developers.

“We think it’s a good fit, a good idea, and maybe a good opportunity for the city to partner with the housing authority,” he said.

Bridgeo said while some people might be concerned about the city becoming involved in a project that could compete for tenants with local private landlords, the demand for housing in Augusta means there are enough tenants for everyone.

“As long as you’ve got a demonstrated need for 500 units, and we’re helping with 34 units, there is still plenty of pent-up demand out there” for private-sector landlords, he said.

Ward 4 Councilor Anna Blodgett said her only concern about the proposal is the potential effect of the additional traffic on Maple Street, a residential street off Willow Street.

The Augusta Housing Authority’s first, and most recent, major development project was converting the former Hodgkins Middle School into Hodgkins School Apartments, which has 47 rental units for residents age 55 and older.

Bartlett said each of those 47 units is spoken for and by the end of the month will all be occupied.

“We’re happy with how that property worked out, and it testifies to the need for senior housing and general housing in the community,” she said. “Hodgkins is an example of what we can do when the city works its resources with ours. We were able to take a vacant, blighted building and turn it into something purposeful that made a difference in the neighborhood.”

The city still technically owns the Hodgkins building but has turned it over to the housing authority with a 90-year lease, for $1 a year.

The city had been considering demolishing the Hodgkins building when the housing authority proposed, instead, to convert it into housing, in an $8.5 million redevelopment project.

Bartlett said 233 workers were employed redeveloping the Hodgkins building, providing a boost to the local economy as those workers spent at least some of their pay eating and shopping locally.

An open house, which is open to the public and will include tours, is planned for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. June 22 at Hodgkins School Apartments.

The proposed Kennebec Lockes rental units would be built in a townhouse-style design developed by architect Kevin Bunker, of Developers Collaborative, whose firm also designed the Hodgkins renovation and is involved in a housing project in Gardiner.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]maine.com

Twitter: @kedwardskj