Bayview Apartments to end HUD contract, but still take vouchers

By Kendra Caruso | Aug 14, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso Bayview Apartments on Aug. 13.

Belfast — Bob Hutchinson is ending his 40-year subsidized housing program contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Bayview Apartments owner will continue to accept housing choice vouchers for people who qualify.

The program expires in December. Hutchinson's decision not to renew the HUD contract comes, he said, from an expanding economy in the Belfast area. He believes projects like Nordic Aquafarms' new fish farm will bring more workers who will need housing.

“We have talked to the town manager as to what they see for job forecasting,” Hutchinson said. “There are more jobs coming to Belfast and we see a need.”

He declined to comment about the current reimbursement rates he receives through the HUD program but said he intends to establish rent for the properties at just above fair market value.

This is not an immediate change and all participants in the program will receive vouchers to remain in their current housing, according to Maine State Housing Authority Communication Coordinator Cara Courchesne.

Hutchinson said he also intends to renovate his property over the next several years, one apartment at a time as tenants move out, and to start accepting people not on state aid.

At a recent City Council meeting, it was stated Bayview Apartments would no longer be available for subsidized housing; however, Hutchinson said he intends to continue to accept residents with state-subsidized housing choice vouchers.

Bayview Apartments operations manager Kathleen Soreide said, “Our goal is to be a part of the community and a good place for people to live.”

Maine has some of the country's oldest housing stock and many of the subsidized program contracts go as far back as the ’70s and ’80s, according to Courchesne. She said Maine State Housing Authority tries to negotiate to maintain all affordable housing contracts.

Sometimes, those negotiations include helping property owners with finances or buying the development and selling it to an organization that agrees to keep it as affordable housing. The agency is always building new developments, but officials say there is still more need for affordable housing.

The Maine State Housing Authority considers affordable rent to be no more than 30% of a person’s income. The cost of rent is increasing but the wages people earn aren’t keeping pace, which is creating more of a need for affordable housing, Courchesne said.

“ … If you look at, sort of, the mortgage market right now, the costs to buy a house have just, like, skyrocketed,” Courchesne said, “which means that more people are renting. Which means that the demand for rent is higher. Which means the cost of rent goes higher because there’s a big demand for it. So, it’s pricing people out of buying a house and also pricing people out of renting an apartment that they can afford.”

There are two types of housing vouchers. The first is a project-based voucher designated for a specific apartment, Courchesne explained. Hutchinson’s current contract is through this program.

The second, a housing-choice voucher, subsidizes the rent of any apartment the recipient might move into, she said. This is the type of voucher Hutchinson will start accepting after his HUD contract expires.

Hutchinson says he likes the economic direction into which Belfast is heading and everything the city has done to improve the downtown area. He wants to maintain a good relationship with the community moving forward.

“Over the years, I’ve seen Belfast change,” Hutchinson said. “And it’s a nice little town and it’s getting better, and better, and better, and we see the need for worker housing.”

 

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