Though a new affordable 28-unit housing development in South Berwick has yet to open, 60 people have already applied to live there.
That problem is magnified all over Maine, according to Maine House Speaker Mark Eves.
by Judi Currie
November 2, 2015
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — At an early unveiling of the Young Street Apartments project in South Berwick on Monday morning, Eves called attention to the need for more housing for seniors ahead of Tuesday’s vote on a $15 million bond referendum that would fund similar projects in every Maine county.
“There are 9,000 seniors on a wait list currently. This bond will be a step in the right direction,” Eves said. “We need to stay focused so we can make sure that every senior who wants to live independently in their community can do so.”
The Question 2 ballot initiative needs a simple majority; 50 percent plus one. Then, Gov. Paul LePage needs to release the bonds.
Eves said he is hoping for a big turnout in support of the bond to demonstrate statewide support and communicate to the governor that the bonds should not be held up, or caught up in a partisan back-and-forth. The housing units are sorely needed for seniors to live independently in their communities, Eves said.
“We’ve traveled all over the state talking to community leaders and seniors and there is universal agreement that affordable housing for seniors is a priority,” Eves said. “I think that will be reflected in the vote Tuesday.”
The South Berwick project is being developed by Avesta Housing. President Dana Totman said the Young Street Apartments are a $6 million development that employed hundreds of people during construction this past winter and will soon be contributing $25,000 in tax revenue to the town.
Totman said at Avesta they have 143 people on a waiting list for a development in Kittery, 81 for a development in Berwick, 152 for Wells and another 150 for a second development in Wells.
“Seniors in Maine are in need of decent, safe and affordable housing,” said Totman. “Young Street's completion comes at a critical time for the approximately 30 residents who will live there, but for the thousands of seniors who still need affordable housing, we need to do more.”
President of York Hospital Jud Knox said residents of Young Street Apartments will benefit from a partnership with the hospital meant to foster a more proactive approach to wellness and improve health outcomes. There is space set aside in the development where the hospital will provide on-site healthcare. The exact scope of services has not been determined.
The Young Street project began five years ago. Town Manager Perry Ellsworth has been involved from the beginning and said the town has needed senior housing for a long time.
“It takes the whole community working together, the hospital, the residents, the town council, and the school system to be able to get something like this," Ellsworth said. "Residents will be able to walk from Young Street to the pharmacy, to the post office, to a local market and will be able to volunteer at the school or the library nearby."
Eves said the Young Street Apartments are the perfect model for senior housing across the state.
"They address a strong need in the community to help seniors remain independent in their communities, with health care centers and shopping areas nearby," Eves said. “If voters approve the housing bond, it will be a huge win for seniors and our local communities.”
Rental costs for the Young Street Apartments will be based on a resident's income. The average rents will range between $760 and $1,100 monthly.