February 19, 2020
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Monastery to be converted into housing for asylum seekers

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Cots and belongings stand in rows atop the basketball court in the Portland Expo building in this June 2019 file photo.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine developer has announced plans to use a former monastery to house newly arrived asylum seekers.

Josh Soley said Thursday he would offer rentals in a boardinghouse-style project, which includes communal kitchens and bathrooms. He said there will be 40 units available.

“Tons of my peers in the real estate industry are building high-end condos,” Soley said. “But there’s not a lot of people who really build on the lower end of the market, and I think there’s tremendous need for that.”

Maine is home to thousands of African newcomers, many of them asylum seekers, and an influx this past summer briefly overwhelmed local shelters.

The city has not issued the permits needed for the building, and it is not clear when the units would become available, The Portland Press Herald reported.

Papy Bongibo, president of the Congolese Community Association of Maine, said this project will help many new immigrants who struggle to find housing.

“We’ve been losing families because they are going to Canada, or they end up leaving the city because there’s no affordable places for them to live,” Bongibo said.


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