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News

Ceremony marks beginning of new senior housing unit project


A new senior housing project in South Berwick to break ground.
Fosters.com
By Judi Currie
December 18, 2014

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — With an eye toward integration rather than isolation, a 28-unit senior housing development is being tucked into downtown, close to shops and services.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, held inside the South Berwick Library because of the rain, Avesta Housing President Dana Totman said, “The need for senior housing in Maine is huge, so this project is just a drop in the bucket. But for the seniors who will live here, it’s more than a drop in the bucket, it’s home.”
Avesta Housing has developments throughout York and Cumberland counties and is the largest nonprofit developer in northern New England with nearly 2,000 apartments.
Totman said Avesta receives 200 calls a month from people in need of a safe, affordable place to live. About half of the callers are seniors, some living in terrible conditions with inadequate heating, according to Totman.
Avesta’s new Young Street Apartments in South Berwick will provide 23 one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units with 28 parking spaces and an on-site laundry. The units are expected to be ready for occupancy by late summer 2015. They will rent for between $750 and $1,100 a month, including utilities.
State Rep. and Maine House Speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick said this kind of housing is desperately needed.
“With the pharmacy and the post offices and York Hospital satellite facility nearby, this project is an example of all you need to allow Maine Seniors to age in place,”
Eves is proposing a $65,000,000 bond to create 1,000 units of affordable housing for Maine seniors. He said if the bond passes, “It would be enough to fund similar housing projects in every Maine county 40 times over.”
South Berwick Town Manager Perry Ellsworth said that when he arrived in 2011 the town was in the process of converting a church to a public library and deciding what to do with some of the property. The new housing development will occupy that land.
“It accentuates everything we did with the library and highlights the importance of partnerships,” declared Ellsworth, who said he hears “too often” from seniors who have to move out of Maine because the state lacks enough affordable housing.
Jessica Maurer, Executive Director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging, said the Young Street project tells the story of a change in the conversation about aging in Maine. Maurer was recognized by Avesta as the 2014 Mike Yandell Award winner for her service and dedication to affordable housing.
“All over Maine, thousands are living in unsafe conditions,” she said. “Not because they won’t leave their home, but because they won’t leave their community.”
She believes the South Berwick development will provide an opportunity to explore different types of health care services for seniors by posing the question, “How do we design new models of senior housing that can include new models of health care?”

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