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Proposal calls for 30 Housing First apartments in Sanford

Asylum seekers, many from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, wait outside Sanford city hall on Monday, hoping to get an appointment with the General Assistance office. Dozens of new immigrants have arrived in Sanford in the last week, hoping to find assistance after shelters in larger cities, including Portland, have hit capacity.
Ari Snider
/
Maine Public
Asylum seekers, many from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, wait outside Sanford city hall on Monday, hoping to get an appointment with the General Assistance office. Dozens of new immigrants have arrived in Sanford in the last week, hoping to find assistance after shelters in larger cities, including Portland, have hit capacity.

The Sanford Housing Authority plans to build 30 apartments in the town, offering housing and support services for residents who have a history of chronic homelessness.

The building will serve as a Housing First project in Sanford, one of the first proposals of its kind planned outside of Portland.

Diane Small, director of the Sanford Housing Authority, said the apartments are intended for those who have experienced homelessness, or those who are leaving prison or entering recovery.

"Housing First is a way to make homelessness rare and brief," she said. "It doesn't put any barriers up for you to get into housing."

The site will provide permanent housing, and the York County Community Action Program is expected to offer supportive services on site, Small said.

The new apartments should ease the pressure felt throughout the entire local housing market, Small added.

"It's looking at the whole continuum of housing, from Housing Choice vouchers, to project based vouchers, to single family homes, senior housing and then housing for our unhoused population," she said. "And making sure that everyone has access."

The Sanford Housing Authority must secure municipal approval for the project, and Small said the project will compete for federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to help pay for the cost of construction.

Small said she can't yet disclose the specific site for the project, but the housing authority recently secured $440,000 in federal pandemic funds to purchase the land and pay for predevelopment costs.

The project should break ground next year. The state's new Housing First fund, created last year through a budget bill, is expected to be available next year as well. The funds will help cover the support services that will be offered at Housing First properties.

There are three Housing First properties in Maine; all three are located in Portland. Avesta Housing and Preble Street have also proposed a fourth project in Portland.