May 26, 2018
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Bangor reclaims blighted housing

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — When the city bought the property at 13 Sanford St. recently, it had been abandoned for more than a year.

Most of the windows were smashed. Pipes had burst and puddles of water were scattered throughout the two-story home. Mold was crawling up the walls. Duct tape held the front door together.

“It was a mess,” Kaleena Harrington, Bangor’s assistant director of economic and community development, said this week at the downtown property.

The city bought the foreclosed and abandoned property cheap (about $30,000). In the past several weeks, Bangor has paid a general contractor an additional $50,000 to renovate the three-bedroom, 11/2-bathroom home. Crews from R&K Construction of Brewer were putting on the finishing touches this week — fresh paint, light fixtures, new windows and more.

The house is set to go on the market within the next month, with a catch.

“We can’t sell for any more than what we paid to purchase and renovate,” Harrington said.

Bangor’s involvement with the acquisition, renovation and eventual resale of 13 Sanford St. is possible through a little-known program called the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. It is funded by the federal stimulus bill.

The program, administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, specifically targets neighborhoods that have deteriorated because of foreclosures or abandonment.

“Before this, an investor would come in, buy cheap and then put the minimum amount of money into it before selling,” Harrington explained. “But that doesn’t help a neighborhood.”

Bangor’s share of the $19.6 million awarded to Maine through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program is about $1.1 million. Harrington said that’s enough to acquire and renovate up to a dozen properties. So far, the city has purchased foreclosed properties on Second Street, Parker Street and Fifth Street and is looking for more.

The city must spend all its funds within four years, but the beauty of the program is that the city can keep buying properties with the money it earns by selling rehabilitated homes. If Bangor spends $50,000 to buy the home and another $50,000 to renovate, it can sell for $100,000. Then, the city can take that $100,000 and start the process all over again.

“This will assist the city in preserving its existing housing stock and managing foreclosures we have experienced over the last two years. It will also help us redevelop vacant and blighted properties that have sat unused,” Harrington said. “This funding, over the length of the program will make quite an impact on Bangor’s housing market.”

Since 1975, the city has received more than $40 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development under its Community Development Block Grant program to make improvements to businesses, residences, parks and more. Past projects that have benefited from CDBG property rehabilitation funds include the Bangor Waterworks site, the Freese’s assisted living facility and the Park Woods transitional housing development. Other areas where funds likely will be used include: waterfront development, improving handicapped access, upgrading neighborhood streets and sidewalks, and providing assistance to small businesses looking to grow.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is the only program that specifically targets single-family homes. All program projects are required to incorporate green energy standards into redevelopment to ensure increased efficiency and affordability for the homeowner.

Harrington said the program is not for everyone. To be eligible, total household income cannot exceed 120 percent of the area median income based on housing size. In Bangor, that means a two-person household must earn less than $59,150 a year and a four-person household can earn no more than $73,900. The program also is available to those who do not currently own a home.

If the renovation and resale of the 13 Sanford St. property are successful, Harrington said, it will have a ripple effect on other homes in the area. Across the street from the rehabbed home is a row of buildings that are slated to be demolished to make way for the Bangor Y’s consolidation and expansion on Second Street, which runs parallel to Sanford Street.

“This area could look a lot different — and hopefully a lot nicer — in the next few years,” Harrington said.

For additional information on Bangor’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program or full list of eligibility requirements, contact Kaleena Harrington at 992-4241.

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