Three apartment buildings are slated to in Greater Portland for Mainers who earn between $30,000 and $60,000 a year. Credit: CBS 13

Three new apartment buildings in Greater Portland are slated to open for Mainers who work in the area but can’t afford the steep rent.

Deering Place, Thornton Heights Commons and West End Apartments — which comprise a total of 170 apartments — will open in Portland and South Portland.

Eighty percent of the units will be rented to individuals and families earning between $30,000 and $60,000 a year.

“People who work in communities should be able to live in the communities that they work in,” said Dan Brennan, executive director of MaineHousing.

Brennan said affordable apartment projects are vital for low-income families who are getting priced out of the current housing market.

“The pandemic really just exacerbated what we’ve already known, that there aren’t enough affordable units … for renters or homeowners in the state,” Brennan said.

At Thornton Heights Commons in South Portland, units start at $870 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, nearly $500 below market rate. The building has already received more than 200 applications for its 42 apartments, the director said.

A petition against the project, focusing on concerns about increased traffic and noise, gained 225 signatures from residents. But supporters of the project told city councilors the building will give dozens of families a home.

“A lot of [the potential residents] have kids,” said Michael Conford, a Thornton Heights resident. “They need a place to stay. And if they can find low-income housing and can be provided, even though it is in my neighborhood and it may make things a little more inconvenient for me, I think that’s a great thing.”

MaineHousing hopes to add 600 new affordable apartments by the end of the year and 750 next year.

“My goal is to just keep that momentum going and help as many people as we can,” Brennan said.

Brennan also hopes Congress will pass a new tax credit to help build affordable homes.

“I hope that over time, single-family home ownership and the development of those subdivisions is a part of the mix that we’re going to continue to offer,” Brennan said.