Low-income senior housing opens in Belfast this summer

Project officials check out one of the units in the Goose River Apartments complex on Wednesday, May 22. The 24-unit project still under construction on Swan Lake Avenue should be ready for income-eligible seniors to move in later this summer.
Project officials check out one of the units in the Goose River Apartments complex on Wednesday, May 22. The 24-unit project still under construction on Swan Lake Avenue should be ready for income-eligible seniors to move in later this summer. Buy Photo
Posted May 26, 2013, at 5:36 a.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Expensive rentals and rising fuel costs are hard on many. But for a senior on a fixed income in coastal Maine, such problems are magnified.

A new housing development in Belfast aims to be part of the solution. The 24-unit Goose River Apartments on Swan Lake Avenue opens this summer to senior citizens who meet income qualifications.

Rent for a single person would be about 30 percent of their income, which is capped at $19,250. That rises to $22,000 for two people.

“There is a need for senior housing … It’s tough for seniors living on a fixed income. It’s really tough,” said developer Tom Pendleton of Winterport Wednesday.

To Pendleton, the units provide more than just affordability. “It’s clean, warm, safe and an opportunity to age in place.”

Rents at the apartment complex, which is being built in a field more than a mile away from downtown Belfast, will be subsidized through USDA Rural Development and the Maine State Housing Authority. Designed for seniors to live independently, the units feature wider doorways, grab bars in the bathtub, handicap-accessible sinks and fire alarms for the visually-impaired.

Construction began last fall by Bowman Constructors of Newport, who will be installing low-flow toilets and Energy Star appliances. The homes will be heated with propane gas and have been built with spray foam insulation, contractor Brian Bowman said.

Foothills Management of Farmington is currently taking applications for the units, which are more than half reserved, according to Bill Marceau of the management agency.

Belfast Assistant City Planner James Francomano said his office has received multiple inquiries about the project as rents in Belfast continue to increase.

“We’ve also heard from time to time that there just isn’t enough housing diversity in Belfast,” Francomano said.

Ordinarily, building an elderly complex “beyond a walkable downtown,” would not be desirable for the city, he said. But in 2005, the Belfast City Council decided to extend the city’s sewer line along Swan Lake Avenue, opening the area up for development.

At the Belfast Planning Board’s request, the developers designed a large portico for a bus stop so that tenants can easily access transportation. Marceau and Pendleton said that the Waldo Community Action Partners bus will stop by the development periodically.

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