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City to apply for block grant on behalf of Congress Street housing project

By Kendra Caruso | May 03, 2021
Source: City of Belfast website A rendering of Developers Collaborative's proposed affordable housing development on Congress Street.

Belfast — The city is expected to apply for a grant from the Community Development Block Grant Housing Assistance Program for Developers Collaborative’s 115 Congress St. affordable housing project, which the city hopes will help the developer earn housing tax credits from MaineHousing this summer.

It is one of three measures that can be taken to help the company increase the project's score with MaineHousing to seek housing tax credits. Other measures include the city's developing a Community Revitalization Plan and selling the property to the company for $6,000 instead of the $136,000 it is currently asking.

Councilors will consider hiring Camoin Associates to develop a revitalization plan at the next council meeting. It is unclear if the city will lower the sale price on the Congress Street property, which is valued at $267,800, according to 2020 tax commitment books.

A low score and steep competition last year prevented the project from getting housing credits, but the company thinks it has a better chance of scoring higher this year after the extra measures, like receiving a block grant, are taken, according to a discussion among Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge, councilors and Developers Collaborative at a work session Jan. 26.

The project will have five two-story buildings, for a total of 48 apartments on the property, a company representative said at the work session. There will be a play area for young children and an area for a laundromat, kitchenette and event space. There will be covered spaces for outdoor storage and yard areas to create a sense of community among renters. There will be 1 1/2 parking spaces per rental unit.

“Developers Collaborative’s proposed housing development for 115 Congress Street is the current top priority for the City of Belfast, and securing this grant is one important way in which the City can support this vitally needed project,” Mayor Eric Sanders said in a press release.

The program awards up to $500,000 in grant funding out of $1.5 million total available funds the program has this year, according to Kittredge. If awarded, the grant money can be used for soft costs like permits and fees, engineering services and surveys, architectural services, environmental reports, appraisals and market studies.

The company will have to match 20 cents of each dollar given to the project, if awarded, he said. The application must be in by Friday, May 7. The city would learn if it was selected for the grant in June.

The city will hold a public hearing on the application Tuesday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. during a City Council meeting where councilors are expected to approve it. Public comments, which will be submitted as part of the application, may be given orally at the virtual meeting, emailed to economicdevelopment@cityofbelfast.org or sent by mail to Thomas Kittredge, Economic Development Director, Belfast City Hall, 131 Church St., Belfast, ME 04915.

 

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