AUGUSTA — A $500,000 affordable-housing grant secured by the city on Friday will help veterans buy their own homes and redevelop the old Cony High School flatiron building into housing for senior citizens.

The city isn’t spearheading either of those two projects. Instead, it applied for the Community Development Block Grant funding from the state Department of Economic and Community Development on behalf of two local nonprofits. Only municipalities are eligible to apply for the grants, though they can pass the money through to others, as Augusta did.

Of the $500,000 total grant, $200,000 will go to Bread of Life Ministries for its new program helping veterans acquire their own homes in Cony Village.

The other $300,000 will go to Cynthia Taylor, president of Housing Initiatives of New England, for the housing developer’s proposal to convert the Cony flatiron building into housing for senior citizens.

Matt Nazar, city development director, said the city applied for the funding for the local projects because officials felt they are worthy and would benefit the community.

He said the flatiron project will help meet the housing needs of area seniors while providing a new use for the historic building, and the Bread of Life project will help veterans buy their own homes in Cony Village.

“This is great news for us,” said Dean LaChance, executive director of Bread of Life. “It allows disabled vets and vets in need to be able to get down payment money for our already discounted homes at Cony Village. It’s really going to give a lot of hope for veterans to own their own permanent, accessible home for less than the cost of rent in Augusta.”

LaChance said the grant, along with a $125,000 grant from The Home Depot Foundation, will help veterans make the down payment on homes in Cony Village, just off Cony Road. The homes already are discounted through a special program for veterans. He said veterans can get a home worth around $137,000 for $112,500, or less.

He said veterans interested in the program can call 626-3434 or go to www.mainebreadoflife.net for more information.

Taylor said the $300,000 in funding for the Cony flatiron project is a crucial piece needed to close a funding gap for the project, and could also help obtain other financing.

“It has been a good day. I’m thrilled,” Taylor said Friday. “It’s not an easy building to rehabilitate. This is one of the pieces of the gap financing we really needed. We don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle we need yet. This is a significant piece, and I’m delighted that people value what we’re doing.”

Redeveloping the former high school building, which the city will lease to the developer for 50 years, is expected to cost about $8.7 million. It would be funded by a combination of state and federal housing money, historic preservation tax credits, grants, rental income and a proposed tax break from the city.

The building has been vacant since the new Cony High School opened in 2006. The city has been spending about $75,000 a year to heat and maintain the empty building.

Taylor’s plan would convert the building’s former classroom space into 44 units —16 of them two-bedroom and 28 one-bedroom.

Taylor and Housing Initiatives of New England in 2000 redeveloped Augusta’s former city hall into 31 assisted-living apartments, now called the Inn at City Hall.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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