By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,319)
Inclusionary zoning is probably coming to Portland sooner rather than later it was disclosed last night at a forum on affordable housing at city hall. Under consideration by the city is a possible ordinance that would require residential developers of ten or more units to reserve ten percent for those earning the median city income. Jeff Levine, Director, Planning & Urban Development Department for Portland served as the facilitator for the meeting Housing Committee meeting.
A recent surge in high-end condominium construction on the east end of Portland has made housing beyond the financial reach of many middle-income people who would like to live here. The east end has become a desirable address, although just a few years ago it wasn’t that way It was formerly known more for its drug and crime pockets. Rents were cheap and Munjoy Hill was home to many college studens. But the City began to clean-up this “arm pit of Portland.” And so its access to the Eastern Promenade, walkablity to downtown Portland and the growth of its cultural community have lured retired people with deeper pockets here. The median age in Portland is 37 years of age.
Developer Justin Alfond told the SRO audience that he has built two residential projects in Portland. In both he has used inclusionary zoning because he believes it was the right thing to do. In his high-end condominium on Sheridan Street on Munjoy Hill he aet aside two units and in his apartment building on Congress Street he set aside five units for inclusionary zoning. “It’s possible to do this and still make money,” Alfond told the audience. But Chris O’Neill, a liaison to the city from the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce told the Housing Committtee that it is “leary of inclusionary zoning.” The Chamber has formed a task force that will be issuing a report in the near future The Midtown Project which is well underway would not be affected by this ordinance, but it’s expected that the 58 Fore Street development may be directly affected by it.
Too of\ten winter renters on Peaks Island cannot afford summer rates so they have to leave. In order to help alleviate that situation, a Peaks Island task force is recommending a proposed ordinance for Portland to take a look at according to a representative of the Island who attended the Forum last night. Briefly, the proposed ordinance ;provides that “one affordable accessory dwelling unit per lot” would be permitted, subject to a specific set of standards and conditions detailed in a written document. Significantly, the year-round occupant of the unit is to be determined by income-eligible standards. Each accessory unit should be no larger than 1,200 sq. feet in size. In exchange, the homeowner will be exempt from taxes on that unit of the property. The proposed Peaks Island ordinance is based on a similar one in existence in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. It’s likewise a remote area during the winter season, although a popular rental destination in the summer.
The Planning Office will compile the information and refer it back to the Housing Committee when its available.