Five affordable housing projects are getting a financial boost from tax credits and other subsidies that will allow them to seek more private financing.

State affordable housing authority MaineHousing announced Monday that it has awarded $6.8 million in financial incentives to five projects in Portland, South Portland, Waterville and Bangor. The tax credits and other subsidies will generate an additional $37 million in equity from private investors to build or improve affordable housing, it said.

Washington Gardens in Portland

The five developments were selected from 15 proposals that requested a total of over $10.3 million, the Augusta-based housing authority said. Winners were awarded $3.8 million in federal tax credits and $3 million in other subsidies from MaineHousing. Developments that received funding include the first phase of a historic textile mill redevelopment in Waterville and a project to upgrade 100 units of public housing in Portland.

“There’s a great need in Maine for more apartments that are affordable,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said. “These tax credits are among the main drivers of affordable housing creation in Maine – and are a great example of the public-private partnerships we need to address Maine’s significant housing needs.”

The winning projects are Washington Gardens, a 100-unit affordable housing project in Portland for older adults and others with special housing needs; Front Street Redevelopment I, a 48-unit project in Portland for mixed-income families; West End Apartments II, a 40-unit project in South Portland for mixed-income families; Lockwood Mill I, a 47-unit project in Waterville for mixed-income families, and Newton Place, a 40-unit project in Bangor for older adults and victims of domestic violence.

Developers leading the projects include the Portland Housing Authority, Avesta Housing of Portland, North River Co. of Brunswick and Penquis CAP of Bangor.

The combined investment will create or preserve 317 housing units, according to MaineHousing. Of those units, 275 will serve households at or below 60 percent of their respective area’s median income, it said.

The availability of affordable housing is a persistent problem, especially in the Portland area. The median household income in Portland is about $51,800 a year, nearly half what is needed to afford the median home price of $316,000. Almost half the city’s renters are paying at least a third of their income on housing, the standard upper limit of affordability.

Brennan said all of the developer applications were strong, but MaineHousing has limited funds available for subsidies. Projects not receiving tax credits or other funds will be placed on a waiting list for future awards, he said.

“We’ll look to fund as many as possible with our available funding in the very near future,” Brennan said.

He said 2020 should provide better opportunities for developers of affordable housing in Maine to receive subsidies because of favorable actions by Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature. He said the financial incentives make it possible for developers to charge tenants lower rents because incentives reduce or eliminate the amount of borrowing necessary to complete a project.

Brennan said Maine needs about 20,000 additional units of affordable housing throughout the state. Much of the need is for affordable senior housing, he said. MaineHousing plans to announce by the end of this year the recipients of a voter-approved $15 million bond package for senior housing projects in Maine, which was held up by former Gov. Paul LePage but later authorized by Mills.

MaineHousing is an independent state authority created to address the problems of unsafe, unsuitable, overcrowded and unaffordable housing in the state. A $1.8 billion financial institution with a staff of over 160 people, it assists more than 90,000 Maine households and invests more than $300 million in the Maine economy annually.

It is the agency that allocates all federal housing tax credits in Maine. Each year, MaineHousing allocates tax credits through a process that scores applications on a 100-point scale based on factors such as the proposed development’s access to amenities, services and transportation, and the financial feasibility of the development.

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