The Porch Light

News and perspectives from Northern New England's nonprofit leader in affordable housing


Bipartisan report suggests creative approaches to addressing nation’s housing problems

3.11.13

On Feb. 25, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission released its recommendations for changes to national housing policy in a report entitled, “Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy.” It is a comprehensive report that covers a lot of ground – from reforming the housing finance system and improving rural housing, to allowing more seniors to age in place and expanding the availability of affordable housing to people in need.

The report is a culmination of 16 months of research by the commission, which was first established in October 2011 to set a new direction for federal housing policy. The co-chairs are Maine’s own former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, and former U.S. Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO).

BPC Housing Commission Report CoverTo provide the framework for their efforts, the commission organized a series of forums with housing professionals and practitioners around the country, including one last summer in Mount Desert Island. Avesta Housing, the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, and other groups provided local support for the forum and offered testimony to the members of the commission. Much…


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Community gives back to Five Graham Street resident

3.5.13

Robert Desjardins is known throughout Biddeford as the city’s number one sports fan, and when you step into his apartment at Avesta’s Five Graham Street community, it’s easy to see why.

His walls are adorned with photos of Biddeford sports teams, some signed by the players, and snapshots of him posing with coaches and athletes. An orange-and-black blanket — Biddeford’s colors — is draped over his couch, next to a seat cushion that screams, “Biddeford Tigers, GO!”

When I visited him recently, even Desi — as he’s known around town — was wearing an orange T-shirt as he pointed out his Biddeford sports keepsakes: a varsity letter framed on his wall, decorated with pins for each sport and a sign proclaiming “#1 Fan”; a collection of more than 100 scrapbooks stacked in his closet filled with newspaper clippings of game write-ups and honor roll mentions, dating back to 1966. I heard about Desi’s story from our maintenance technician, Richard Hodgdon, whose work allows him to get to know our residents well.

Desi, who’s 70, played basketball and ran cross country for Biddeford High School. He’s lived in Biddeford all his life, and at Five Graham Street for six years. He…


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Seniors enjoy a chance to eat and socialize at Community Cafe

2.28.13

The residents of Park Street School, a community for seniors in Kennebunk, admit to being a social bunch. They hold daily card games in the building’s large community space and convene regular cribbage games.

Starting in January, Park Street School also began hosting monthly Community Cafes, a program of Southern Maine Agency on Aging that provides people ages 60 and over a regular chance to meet, talk and enjoy a healthy lunch. The program is offered in Kennebunk the first Friday of every month and is open to all seniors in the area.

 

In February, about 35 people filled the tables decorated for Valentine’s Day to enjoy a meal of meatloaf, vegetables, rolls and Boston cream pie. Guests chatted about their families, books they’ve read and their favorite restaurants in Kennebunk. Guests that day included a woman who worked as a secretary at the school for seven years and was excited to be back in the building. Park Street School resident Joan entertained the group with songs by Patsy Cline and Neil Diamond.

Ann MacAusland, an assessor specialist for SMAA, runs the program but relies on the help of volunteer Park Street School residents like Barbara, herself a recipient…


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Free tax preparation services for families who need them

2.26.13

As we’ve done in the past, Avesta is spreading the word about free tax preparation services available for households who need them. Families are fortunate that there are so many ways to get free tax help instead of paying someone to file your taxes, or, worse, getting a refund anticipation loan that carries excessive fees and ridiculous interest.money jar

We’re partnering with Gorham Savings Bank and the United Way to sponsor a week of free tax preparation events beginning today. IRS-certified tax preparers will be on hand to help you prepare and file your taxes, check your credit report, and apply for Maine’s property tax and rent refund programs. The events are February 26-28 from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., happening at United Way’s office at 1 Canal Plaza, third floor. They’re available to people who made less than $51,000 in 2012.

If you can’t make it to an event, you can stop by our new HomeOwnership Center any time during tax season. Contact me to find out more or make an appointment. The United Way is also open to help, so give them a…


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Shining a light on affordable housing

2.21.13

A welcome mat

Welcome to The Porch Light, Avesta Housing’s blog. We hope to use this blog as a platform to share information about our work, the industry we work in and the people we serve.

Avesta has been around for more than 40 years and seen lots of change in affordable housing. In the 1970s, we were developing garden-style housing on acres of land in pastoral settings. These days, we’re rehabbing historic school buildings and turning empty urban lots into energy-efficient housing. This progression is evident as you peruse our wall of photos in our Portland office.

Oak Street Lofts in the heart of Portland's arts district

Oak Street Lofts in the heart of Portland’s arts district

This shift reflects changing Maine’s demographic and their needs. More people are moving to urban areas, where they can access public transportation, public services and other amenities. Living where the jobs are is crucial for households that are seeing expenses like gas and food eat up a greater chunk of their monthly budgets.

What hasn’t changed, however, is the need for what we provide. In fact, the need is…


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