Southgate named one of best affordable housing developments in nation

The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition (AHTCC) announced Sept. 23 that Southgate in Scarborough, Maine, is a 2021 recipient of the Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Rural Area category, recognizing affordable housing developments and organizations that have demonstrated impactful use of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit).

Presented annually, the Edson Awards honor Housing Credit developments that strengthen communities, improve resident opportunities and support economies in urban, suburban and rural areas across the country. This year, the awards coincide with Congress’ consideration of budget reconciliation legislation that would make major investments in housing infrastructure at a time when communities nationwide face ongoing economic challenges and housing insecurity from the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Affordable homes developed with the Housing Credit prove that an effective solution exists for the housing crisis that continues to impact communities and families nationwide,” said AHTCC Executive Director Emily Cadik. “This year, we are awarding properties serving veterans, individuals suffering from opioid addiction, and low-income senior citizens, in addition to outstanding affordable housing preservation efforts and new construction built to meet the needs of surrounding communities. These are just a few examples of what the Housing Credit achieves every day to provide much-needed affordable housing.”

Southgate, developed by Avesta Housing, is a historic landmark repurposed to create affordable housing in a high-cost growing community. Southgate provides 38 much-needed affordable homes for individuals and families with incomes between 30 and 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), with eight of the homes reserved for people who have experienced homelessness. Southgate consists of studio, one-, two, and three-bedroom apartments in two separate buildings: Eight homes are located in a rehabilitated brick historic farmhouse and 30 homes are located in a newly constructed building.

Development was funded with multiple resources, including the 9 percent Housing Credit, a combination of Affordable Housing Program awards from two different Federal Home Loan Banks, federal and state historic tax credits, tax increment financing, below market debt, a sponsor loan, and a grant. Syndication for the property was provided by Boston Capital. Southgate was renovated from a historic farmhouse built in 1805 by Robert Southgate. As one of the town’s oldest surviving structures, the property is a Maine landmark and a key part of Scarborough’s cultural heritage. Southgate is the first-ever adaptive reuse of a farmhouse in Maine and stands as one of the best examples of a preserved, Federal-style brick farmhouse in New England.

“The Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award is one of the most prestigious awards to be bestowed upon affordable housing developments in the country, and we are honored to be among this year’s recipients,” said Dana Totman, president and CEO of Avesta Housing. “It is testament to our commitment to provide safe, quality affordable housing to residents in Maine and New Hampshire.”

Since 1986, the Housing Credit has financed more than 3 million homes for low-income households, including and formerly homeless individuals and families, people with disabilities, veterans of the armed forces, and senior citizens. Through public-private partnerships, the Housing Credit offers a proven track record of financing safe, modern and well-designed affordable homes in communities where they are needed most.

“The Edson Award winners this year demonstrate the flexibility of the Housing Credit to meet the needs of households and communities from Eagle River, Alaska; to Wichita Falls, Texas; to Scarborough, Maine,” said Matt Josephs, AHTCC Board President and Senior Vice President for Policy for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. “As we continue to confront the impact of the pandemic, it is vital that tools like the Housing Credit are enhanced and strengthened, so that we can better address our national housing crisis that grows more urgent by the day.”

For more information about the 2021 Edson Awards, please visit taxcreditcoalition.org/edson-awards/.

Avesta Housing HomeOwnership Center receives major grant to aid Maine residents

Avesta Housing’s HomeOwnership Center (HOC) has been approved for a grant of more than $80,000 from NeighborWorks America, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives, and strengthen their communities. The grant will help HOC assist Maine renters and homeowners stay in their homes in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a great strain on personal finances.

The grant is part of NeighborWorks’ Housing Stability Counseling Program and is made available under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The competition for the grant monies was extremely high—NeighborWorks received requests totaling more than $348 million, which was more than four times the amount of funding available.

Totaling $82,240, the grant is among the largest ever received from NeighborWorks by Avesta’s HOC. The funds are greatly needed to help Maine residents cope with financial uncertainty brought on by the pandemic’s effect on the labor market coupled by escalating home prices, rent, and the cost of everyday household necessities.

“We are so excited to be recipients of this grant. Participating in the Housing Stability Program gives us the resources to help our most vulnerable clients that are facing eviction or foreclosure,” said HOC Director Nicole DiGeronimo. “The COVID-19 pandemic put a strain on Mainers who were already susceptible to financial instability and at a higher risk for losing their homes. Having the funding to support these clients is essential so that we may provide counseling and be that trusted resource to those who are seeking assistance in stabilizing their housing.”

Avesta’s HOC is a HUD-certified housing counseling agency. It provides counseling services for renters aspiring to become homeowners or who are struggling to maintain financial stability, homeowners at risk of losing their homes due to foreclosure or who are seeking expert advice on maintaining and improving their homes, and any community member who needs a plan for their personal financial goals.

For more information about the Avesta Housing HomeOwnership Center or to inquire about services, visit: www.AvestaHOC.org

West End Phase I development nears completion

Unique times require a unique approach. With West End Apartments in South Portland, Avesta Housing is transforming a property that will not only alleviate the city’s immediate need for affordable housing, it will jump-start the community’s transition into a robust urban village.

Often, when a new affordable housing development is proposed, there is some opposition from people living in the affected area. This was not the case with the West End development. Historically low-income, the area has been identified for revitalization by the city as part of its master plan, and residents have long wanted improvements. Avesta worked side by side with city leaders and members of the community to design a development that fits the neighborhood’s current and future needs.

When finished, West End Apartments will be comprised of two buildings with a combined 116 units and on-site amenities such as a general store/restaurant, social services, and space for community activities. A new bus station, crosswalks, and walking paths provided by the city will make it easier for residents to access public transportation and nearby amenities, such as the Maine Mall, the Portland International Jetport, the Portland Trail Network, and numerous retail, service, medical, and hospitality establishments.

“Avesta operates a large affordable community in the West End area and has been investing in the health and future of this neighborhood for years. West End Apartments will play a major role in continuing to transform the neighborhood,” said Rebecca Hatfield, senior vice president of real estate for Avesta Housing. “We are creating a diverse, mixed-income community that is accessible to amenities people need for everyday living.”

 

Located at 586 Westbrook St., West End Apartments is a mixed-income development divided into two phases. Phase I, the larger of the two, consists of a five-story building with 64 apartments (ranging in size from studios to three-bedrooms) for individuals and families, with on-site laundry facilities and an indoor bicycle storage area.

The ground floor will include a large community room for residents and neighbors, and office space for The Resource Hub social service center run by The Opportunity Alliance, a nonprofit community action agency servicing Cumberland County. (Prior to construction, The Resource Hub operated out of a trailer on the site.) Several outdoor plazas will provide space for residents and other members of the community to congregate.

An additional amenity of Phase I will be a first for Avesta Housing—an on-site convenience store/restaurant on the ground floor. Avesta purchased the land from Le Variety, which operated a popular convenience store on the site, and made arrangements for the owners to move into a larger space in the new building—a shell space that they will finish independent of the residential development. The store/restaurant will be in a separate condominium that will not be owned by Avesta.

Construction on Phase I is in its final stages, and residents begin moving in this month.

Phase II will consist of another five-story building with 52 apartments that, like those in Phase I, will consist of mixed-income units ranging in size from studios to three-bedrooms, on-site laundry facilities, and a bike storage area. The ground floor will include a small office space for Avesta Housing property management team to assist residents. Construction on Phase II is in its early stages and is targeted for completion in summer 2022.

Avesta and Kaplan Thompson Architects have designed both buildings to maximize sustainability and energy efficiency. The shape of the building is atypical in that it has very few square corners to best utilize every inch of available space. Natural gas is limited to domestic hot water boilers, and the plumbing fixtures were carefully selected to provide adequate water pressure at the lowest volume to reduce fossil fuel consumption. The roof is designed to support solar panels in the future.

West End Apartments represents Avesta’s commitment to not just build affordable housing, but to improve communities. When completed, it will be more than just a place to live—it will be a vital component of South Portland’s West End neighborhood.

Women to Watch: At Avesta, Rebecca Hatfield is advocating for affordable housing

Mainebiz

Maine Voices: Progress stirs long-elusive hope of addressing affordable housing crisis

“Now that leaders in Augusta and Washington have responded, we must design programs that help the people who need it the most.Over the past several decades, the lack of affordable rental housing throughout Maine and the United States has taken on such a level of intractability and pervasiveness that it has come perilously close to being an accepted norm. Long waiting lists, growing homelessness and families living constantly on the brink of catastrophe – these are the everyday fruits of a systemic imbalance between income and housing costs that metastasize across various elements of people’s lives and jeopardize their health, education and economic futures.Thankfully, leaders in Augusta and Washington, D.C., have begun to stir something that has proved elusive for far too long in the effort to address our housing affordability crisis: hope.Last year, Gov. Janet Mills and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau teamed with leading Republicans, including Sen. Matt Pouliot and Rep. Sawin Millett, to create the most valuable policy tool in Maine history to increase our supply of affordable homes: the Maine Affordable Housing Tax Credit. That program will provide a much-needed jolt to the anemic 230 new units-per-year pace of affordable housing production that Maine has averaged over the past seven years.

Gov. Mills and the Legislature have now approved $50 million of American Recovery Plan funds for affordable workforce housing. There have also been hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to emergency rental assistance during the pandemic, and eviction moratoriums have minimized displacement. This new attention on affordable housing is almost dizzying to those of us who are used to begging for budgetary crumbs and for simple acknowledgment that we have, in fact, an affordable-housing problem.

Despite all of this progress, there is much work still to be done. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 65,904 Maine households were paying over half their income on housing before the pandemic. These residents, who mostly have very low incomes, desperately needed affordable housing but didn’t have it. Then the pandemic hit and exacerbated the situation. Furthermore, the shallow pool of affordable housing previously available to low-income renters has been depleted even further by skyrocketing home prices, which has forced first-time homebuyers to rent instead of buy.

Now that our affordable-housing problem has been recognized and our elected officials have responded, we must design programs that provide help to the people who need it the most. This not a simple task since the new allocations of funding for affordable housing are enough to help only a fraction of the Mainers who need it. There are some who are adequately housed despite not having their ideal homes; for example, moderate- to high-income renters who have a decent affordable apartment but want to buy, and renters who would like to be in a larger apartment or different location. It is tempting to allocate funding to these groups, but we cannot prioritize them over the tens of thousands of people who are living in unsafe conditions and paying more than half of their income on rent – or who are unhoused altogether.

In a perfect world, we can help everyone, but in the reality of our finite resources in Maine, we need to help those who need it most: people who could not otherwise live in safe, high-quality and affordable homes. Maine needs to embark on a campaign to build 20,000 affordable rental homes for those with the lowest incomes and for those paying over 50 percent of their income on housing. One thousand new affordable rental homes for 20 years will get us there.

Let’s hold ourselves accountable.”

 

By Dana Totman, Avesta Housing President and CEO

Portland Press Herald

Telehealth Solution for Older Adults Living in Affordable Housing

Avesta is pleased to announce a groundbreaking partnership with Senscio Systems, a Maine-based developer of artificial intelligence solutions for health conditions. We will introduce to residents at select properties Ibis (pronounced eye-biss), a comprehensive solution for at-home health self-management for persons living with complex chronic conditions.

Ibis combines healthcare technology and artificial intelligence, coupled with coaching and integrated health management services, to enable Ibis program members to self-manage their health and build stronger partnerships with their healthcare providers to proactively intervene.

Following care plans prescribed by members’ physicians, the Ibis program notifies the care team to consider interventions based on patient self-assessment data and generates unprecedented actionable insights for the care team about the health of the patient.

Avesta resident service coordinators have been working with Senscio for several years. They have done numerous presentations and demonstrations at many of our properties and have signed up many residents for their telehealth tablet. With residents forced to use telehealth service to access health during the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt it was a good time to try a more targeted approach. We chose four Maine properties to pilot this program: Butler Payson (Portland), Foxwell (Kittery), Kallock Terrace (Saco), and Unity Gardens (Windham). Residents at these properties will be eligible for a device and will receive the following:

  1. A 10” tablet to report daily symptoms like breathing, coughing, pain, and mood.
  2. Medical equipment to monitor vitals like temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.
  3. A dedicated Ibis physician to create a patient-centered care plan and review health data routinely.
  4. A dedicated Member Advocate to connect residents with community resources.
  5. Coordinated care with residents’ primary care physicians and specialists.

Expanding access to healthcare and promoting positive health outcomes for residents living in our affordable properties are high priorities for Avesta Housing. We look forward to supporting this program and learning how we can best support our residents to navigate healthy living and affordable housing.

 

By Nick Kjeldgaard, Resident Service Manager

 

Nick Kjeldgaard joined Avesta Housing in 2014 as a resident service coordinator after working for several years in the field of international aide. At Avesta, Nick has worked as a resident service coordinator, property manager and Avesta’s 504 Coordinator, and he currently serves as the Resident Service Manager. Nick’s primary reasonability’s include proving leadership to the resident service coordinators, building partnerships with other community nonprofits, and gathering and analyzing data on residents to provide meaningful and measurable programmatic outputs.

Nick is a Certified Occupancy Specialist (COS), a Fair Housing Specialist, and holds a certificate in Conflict Transformation. Nick received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography from Bucknell University in 2004, and his Master of Arts degree in Sustainable Development from the School for International Training in 2008.

 

 

Resident Updates