New affordable apartment buildings to open in Portland area

WGME

Scarborough Town Council approves affordable housing resident for seniors

SCARBOROUGH — Development at the former public safety building site on 246 U.S. Route 1 will include affordable senior housing after the Scarborough Town Council voted to approve an agreement with Avesta Housing on June 30.

The project, a 31-unit senior affordable housing complex, will be a part of a village-like setting that developers told the Town Council they had envisioned for the project during a Jan. 26 workshop. Other businesses on the property could include a grocer, a bank and a fitness center.

Construction is scheduled to start in the spring of 2022 as long as all funding is secured, said Nate Howes, development officer, in an email to the Leader.

Portland Press Herald

Avesta Housing project to add more affordable housing for older residents in Scarborough

Avesta Housing is planning to build a new, $5.5 million, 31-unit affordable housing project for older residents in Scarborough, which proponents say is needed in a tight housing market.

The project is proposed for a .44-acre parcel at 246 Route 1, just behind the former public safety building the town vacated and sold last year. Nathaniel Howes, development officer for Avesta, said the nonprofit bought the land from another developer last fall. Last week, Howes said, the Town Council approved a tax credit for the project that is paving the way for construction to begin in spring 2022.

According to town documents, the tax credit is part of the Downtown district, which has given credits to a number of developments, including projects on the 600-acre Downs property. The credit amounts to 75% over the next 20 years, or $555,440, according to the documents.

Portland Press Herald

MaineCF’s Frances Hollis Brain Foundation Fund awards $170,000 in grants

PORTLAND — The Frances Hollis Brain Foundation Fund at the Maine Community Foundation has awarded 33 grants totaling $170,000 to nonprofit organizations that serve disadvantaged, underserved, and/or vulnerable communities in Maine.

Grants include:

Community Dental, Portland, to provide oral healthcare to low-income patients through the Low Income Oral Health Access Program in Community Dental’s Biddeford center

Bangor Daily News

Wessex Woods sets new standard in affordable sustainable housing

Avesta Housing’s newest community is the first of its kind in Maine and a reflection of our commitment to provide housing that is both affordable and sustainable.

For Wessex Woods in Portland, Avesta partnered with CWS Architects of Portland and Zachau Construction of Freeport to utilize the latest in eco-friendly construction that not only addresses current needs but anticipates future needs.

Housing residents ages 55 and older, the building is the first in the state to include CLT (Cross Laminated Timber) in its design. An alternative to masonry, CLT panels consist of layered boards stacked crosswise at 90-degree angles and pressure-glued into place. The panels are lightweight but very strong and are quick and easy to install, which make them especially cost-effective for multistory dwellings.

In addition, the building has an energy recovery ventilation system that imports and circulates outside air to regulate the indoor temperature, and each floor includes two electric heat pump units, resulting in a two-thirds reduction in electrical usage. To reduce the chance of flooding, all rainwater is collected in an underground tank under the parking lot and filtered into a nearby waterway rather than flowing into the city’s stormwater drainage system.

That’s not all—future plans call for the addition of solar panels on the roof (made possible by leftover contingency funds), and conduits are in place under the parking lot so that electric charging stations for vehicles can be installed at a later date if desired.

“The theme of all this is that we are thinking forward to ensure our properties reflect the latest building science and response to climate change challenges,” said Greg Payne, development officer for Avesta Housing.

Interior view of a single-bedroom apartment at Wessex Woods.

Construction on Wessex Woods began in November 2019 and was completed this past March. There are 40 one-bedroom units, of which 34 are affordable housing and six are market-rate units. Portland Housing Authority provided vouchers for eight units.

Amenities include a laundry room, a multipurpose room with wi-fi and a TV monitor, a bike storage room, several raised garden beds for residential use, and a telemedicine room in which residents can conduct virtual appointments with healthcare providers. Located near downtown Portland near Brighton Avenue, Wessex Woods is within walking distance to shopping areas, dining, walking trails, and public transportation.

Of course, a building is not a home without people to live in it. And with the need for affordable housing in Maine at historic levels, demand for Wessex Woods was incredibly high. Normally, it takes six months to fully lease out a new apartment complex; Wessex Woods was leased out in less than three months.

“We had about 900 people who gave us their information before January saying they were interested,” said Emily Pelletier, senior leasing specialist with Avesta Housing. “And of those who were placed in units, only a handful came from another home. Most were living with their children or were homeless and living on the streets.”

With Wessex Woods, Avesta Housing is proud to provide another community that people can call home—now, and for many years to come. But our work is far from done. As long as there is a need for safe, quality, affordable housing, we will strive to provide the means to fulfill that need.

“I have never lived in a community living setting before, but as we continually see new faces, we become familiar with each other. Everyone is so friendly and seem very happy to be here,” said Deb, a resident at Wessex Woods. “I couldn’t have found a more beautiful place to live, and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.”

The community room at Wessex Woods.

Avesta’s purchase of C.A. Snow School a done deal

FRYEBURG, Maine —The town’s sale of the C.A.Snow School and former MSAD 72 building to Avesta Housing has been completed, the town manager announced at Thursday’s selectmen’s meeting.

Avesta is a Portland, Maine-based non-profit housing development organization founded in 1972 that has about 100 properties includes 2,700 apartments and two assisted living facilities in its portfolio.

The C.A. Snow School on Pine Street and the MSAD 72 building on Portland Street were vacated when the Molly Ockett School expansion was completed in 2017 and students and staff were moved.

The Conway Daily Sun

Avesta Housing awards scholarships to residents

PORTLAND — Avesta Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing provider in Maine and New Hampshire, has awarded educational scholarships of $1,000 each to two first-generation college students who intend to embark on careers to help others in their communities.

The scholarships are open to Avesta Housing residents who are enrolling in a secondary education program, such as college, graduate school, trade school, and certificate programs. This marks the fifth year Avesta Housing has awarded the scholarships.

This year’s scholarship recipients are:

Hanan Omar with Avesta resident service coordinator Christine Martin

Hanan Omar: Hanan, 17, lives at Unity at Bayside in Portland. She is originally from Djibouti, east Africa, and immigrated to Maine in 2014 with her mother, Mariam Abdourahman, and three siblings.

Hanan recently graduated from Deering High School, where she advocated for Black African studies, racial sensitivity training for faculty, and increased diversity of district staff in Portland Public Schools. She plans on attending Wesleyan University and majoring in biology. Her career aspiration is to become a gastroenterologist. “I used to have stomach problems, and a gastroenterologist really helped me, so I want to help people the same way she helped me,” she said.

Benedita Zalanbantu with Avesta resident service coordinator Christine Martin

Benedita Zalanbantu: Benedita, 18, lives at St. Dominic’s Apartments in Portland’s historic West End. A native of Angola, she immigrated to Maine in 2013. Her parents are Carlos Wisi and Veronica Mayanta, and she has four siblings.

Benedita is already a nationally recognized author and social advocate: In 2019, she won a Gold Medal in Poetry in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for “Drop of Melanin & Blood,” a poem about bias, identity, police brutality—and, in her words, “hope and fear.” She plans on attending Boston College, where she will double-major in international studies and political science. Her career aspiration is to become an immigration lawyer. “I want to be someone immigrants can look up to; someone who can relate to them,” she said.

“Avesta values education,” said Nicholas Kjeldgaard, resident services manager for Avesta Housing. “We see how the pursuit of training and education transforms our residents’ lives. What set Benedita and Hanan apart from the other applicants this year was how much they had accomplished at such a young age and how much good they are doing for their communities.”

 

Scholarship recipients Hanan Omar and Benedita Zalanbantu

Here are their winning essays:

Hanan Omar
Q: What are your educational goals? How will this scholarship help you achieve your future career plans?
A: I am a first generation college student from an immigrant family. My whole life, I have wanted nothing more than to attend college and work in the field of healthcare. Seeking a higher education than what my parents received has always been a must for me. Throughout my entire school career, I have always been an academically successful student. I have always gone above and beyond in my STEM classes to prepare for the college experience. With this scholarship, I will be able to attend a college that has a renowned STEM program to help me become a successful Black Woman in STEM. It will also help me not to be at a disadvantage compared to other students. If I get this scholarship, I will be able to pay not only my tuition at school, but also books and room and board. I want to be able to experience the full college journey without being set back because of my family’s financial situation.

Q: Part of Avesta Housing’s mission is to strengthen communities. How has living in an Avesta community affected your life? If you could do anything to change your community in a positive way, what would you do?
A: Living in an Avesta Housing community exposed me to different people with ethnic backgrounds that have different stories. I realized that many of these families living in Avesta Housing had kids that attended Portland Public schools. Most of the kids wanted to learn more about their backgrounds and their history. However their history is not taught in the schools. This made me want to be more involved in my district curriculum. I became a student representative for Africana Studies within my district. Africana Studies is a group which is made up of teachers and student leaders. Our objective is to cultivate an academic space for Black African history, committed to highlighting Black Excellence. In order to accomplish this goal of decolonizing the curriculum, we are working on training teachers to be more racially sensitive. We also are fighting for more visibility by hiring Black faculty, which would bring Black voices, perspectives, and experiences into the educational system of Portland, Maine. We are still working on this system but when it is implemented, the kids living in Avesta Housing would be able to learn more about their history but also Black Excellence in Academic spaces.

If I could change something about the community would be our level of interaction. I would create more social gathering with the residents to create more of a sense of a community. It would be more of an outdoor gathering for safety measures because of the pandemic. Games and activities will be provided to create more of a relaxed atmosphere.

Q: Pick an experience from your life and explain how it has influenced who you are
A: Since I was young, my mother would always rely on me when it came to responsibilities around the house or our family’s paperwork. My mother always told me that I am independent and that she can rely on me more than my three older siblings. The work I’ve had to do for my family, and responsibility I have has made me more dependent and more confident in my own abilities. This experience influenced me to be the person that I am today because I am very goal oriented and can depend on myself to accomplish what I want.

Benedita Zalanbantu
Q: What are your educational goals? How will this scholarship help you achieve your future career plans?
A: I am a first-generation college student and an asylum seeker which makes me ineligible for financial aid. My parents were robbed off from their education due to lack of money and I don’t want that for myself. I will be majoring in Political science with a minor in English in hopes of pursuing my law degree at Boston University School of Law and becoming an immigration lawyer. I plan to work with families who find themselves in the situation I am currently in. The process of seeking asylum in a country that is not your own is not only stressful but also challenging. It is something that takes a long time and to some extent becomes a barrier to a lot of things, in my case, would be receiving financial aid. The lack of representation is also something that prompted me to want to do something with law. I want young people like myself to have someone to relate to.

Q: Part of Avesta Housing’s mission is to strengthen communities. How has living in an Avesta community affected your life? If you could do anything to change your community in a positive way, what would you do?
A: It has allowed my family and me to live in a comfortable manner without having to think too much about money. My family is already low-income and we try to minimize the thought or need to spend a lot of money and Avesta has done that. I live in a very quiet neighborhood and safe, so I don’t worry too much about it. If I could change it in a positive way, I’ll make sure people know their neighbors. Without Covid, it would’ve been to have a bbq which would allow bringing the Avesta community even more together.

Q: Pick an experience from your life and explain how it has influenced who you are.
A: In the back of the class, I could see them but they could not see me. That is how I wanted it to be. On my first day of school in America, I was told to sit anywhere I wanted, and I chose to sit in the back. My teacher asked a question, and I had the sudden urge to answer it, but with what, English? The answer to the question was just ‘B.’ I’ve replayed that day in my head over and over again. In a course of four months, I went from being an outspoken person to someone who felt as if my words did not matter because I had become a target of bullying and struggled to speak English.

I discovered that my words did matter through poetry, and as my love for poetry grew over the course of four years, my voice became heard. Throughout my year in high school; I won the Founder Prize from the Telling Room, a National Gold Medal through the Scholastic Writing & Arts Award. Sophomore year, I was nominated and a finalist for the Maine Literary Award. I am a two-time published author, and I plan to continue writing until college. Poetry has helped me grow both emotionally and academically. It has allowed me to paint the unsaid, with words. It has turned me into a storyteller. Poetry gave me the courage to speak in a quiet room and gave me the courage to stand up when people were sitting. For the last four years, I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought possible. Poetry has allowed me to become whom I wished I was seven years ago. And because of poetry, I do not sit at the back of the room anymore.

Partners Bank awards $10,000 grant to Avesta Housing

ALFRED, Maine — Partners Bank has joined the ranks of supporters of Avesta Housing’s Silver Hearth Fund by donating $10,000 to aid in the development, renovation, and maintenance of housing and services for low-income seniors in Maine and New Hampshire.

Blaine A. Boudreau, president and CEO of Partners Bank, recently delivered a presentation check to Avesta Housing President and CEO Dana Totman and other Avesta Housing staff during a tour of Woodsedge, an apartment complex for low-income seniors and people with disabilities in Alfred, Maine.

“We applaud and appreciate Avesta Housing’s efforts over the last few years. The planting of those seeds to providing senior housing programs has paid off,” Boudreau said. “We look forward to making a difference in solving a serious need.”

Maine has the largest percentage of residents age 65 and older in the U.S., and nearly 10 percent of them live below the federal poverty threshold. Avesta provides housing to 4,600 people each year, nearly half of whom are seniors—however, the number of older adults seeking an affordable home far exceeds the organization’s capacity to help. Only 1 in 9 applicants per year find a home with Avesta; the others end up on long wait lists.

To address this need, Avesta launched The Silver Hearth Fund in 2019. Avesta’s goal is to raise $2 million by the end of 2021 to build new housing, rehabilitate existing housing, and expand services for seniors in its coverage area.

Woodsedge is just one example of how Avesta is helping low-income seniors. Woodsedge consists of 15 garden-style, walk-up apartments nestled in the woods of rural Alfred. Built in 1981, the property underwent $400,000 in major renovations in 2018 that included new windows, roofing, siding, paving, and lighting on all buildings as well as a redesigned community room.

“Woodsedge is an oasis. I am so grateful to be living here,” said resident Delores “Dee Dee” Garcia, who agreed to show her apartment as part of the tour. “This is such a close-knit community. We all help each other.”

The Woodsedge community has been fully occupied since July 2020, and, like other Avesta properties, there is a long wait list for potential tenants. The average tenant income is $13,056, and many of the residents have lived at the complex for years. This is both a testament to the desirability of Avesta properties and the increasing need for low-income housing for seniors in Maine and New Hampshire.

“We are grateful for Partners Bank’s gift and for the charitable work it provides to its communities,” Totman said. “The generosity of Partners and our other supporters is essential to helping us continue our mission to provide quality, affordable housing to our senior population.”

For more information about The Silver Hearth Fund and to donate, visit: http://www.SilverHearthFund.org

 

Blaine Boudreau, Partners Bank president and CEO (second from right), delivers a presentation check to Avesta Housing staff at Woodsedge in Alfred (left to right): Claire Collin, property manager; Christine Martin, resident service coordinator; Dana Totman, president and CEO; Michael Rayder, associate director of development; and Ben O’Brien, maintenance technician.

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