The parcel of land at 177 Pearl St. in Bangor has been vacant for six years, after the home deeded to the city was demolished in 2014. By early 2021, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Bangor plans to complete construction of a single-family home on that land.
Habitat for Humanity acquired the land for $5,000 after the city put the parcel up for bid, as it does for all land that it acquires. The nonprofit is planning to recruit members of different churches, synagogues and other religious institutions in Bangor to volunteer for building and fundraising efforts, according to Executive Director Sara Trafton. Construction is planned for next spring and will take about a year.
Habitat for Humanity has completed 22 projects in Greater Bangor since 1990, with more than half of those in Bangor. Trafton said building more homes in Bangor continues to be a goal for the nonprofit.
“We’re located in Bangor, and this is kind of the epicenter of the region that we serve. It’s part of our identity,” she said. “The housing crisis is everywhere, but Bangor’s significantly impacted by it.”
All but two of Habitat for Humanity’s 22 homes have been built on land donated by cities and towns in the area.
However, it has been more difficult to acquire land for free or on the cheap in Bangor, according to Trafton. The nonprofit rarely spends money on acquiring land, but it had no choice than to bid for the Pearl Street property because the city puts up all city-owned properties it wants to sell up for competitive bid.
For the 177 Pearl St. lot, Habitat for Humanity was the only bidder.
“They did submit a fantastic concept design,” said Jeff LaBree, the city’s housing rehabilitation coordinator. “We’re looking forward to seeing it developed.”
The Habitat plan for 177 Pearl St. is a two-story house in the city’s Tree Streets neighborhood. Habitat designed the house so it would fit into the neighborhood, responding to concerns some cities have had about how well the modest aesthetic of a Habitat house fits in with surrounding houses.
“A typical Habitat house doesn’t look like a New England-style home,” she said. “But we’re going to do a two-story house on this lot. It actually looks like a New England home.”
While Bangor’s approach is generally to put properties out for bid, LaBree said there have been instances in which a lot has essentially been donated to Habitat for Humanity, including a large lot on Third Street a few years ago that the city divided into two buildable land parcels and sold one to Habitat for a dollar.
“I don’t know if moving forward we will do that,” LaBree said. “Right now everybody gets the chance to bid.”
This June, Bangor offered Habitat for Humanity two parcels of land that the organization declined to take, LaBree said. The parcels were not necessarily offered for free, but the nonprofit did not move far enough along in the process to finalize the cost and other details, he said.
When Habitat for Humanity starts construction on the newly acquired land, the nonprofit will also start the search for a suitable family to occupy the home. Families have to apply and prove that they can afford the mortgage payments. To qualify, a family’s annual income has to be 30 to 80 percent of the area’s median income.
For both the city and the nonprofit, a major goal is to get homes returned to city tax rolls and in the hands of reliable taxpayers.