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Federal funding will convert hotel, motels into housing for those most in need

MaineHousing has awarded $13.2 million in federal funding to three agencies in Kittery, Farmington, and Bangor to help address the housing crisis in Maine.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A process is underway in three Maine communities to develop more than 70 new units of housing for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing homelessness. 

It's part of an effort by the Maine State Housing Authority to address Maine's affordable housing crisis. 

Earlier this month, MaineHousing announced it had awarded $13.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds among three different agencies in Kittery, Farmington, and Bangor. 

Dan Brennan, the director of MaineHousing, said a committee selected Fair Tide, Western Maine Community Action, and Penquis Community Action Agency from a pool of 13 proposals. 

"The geographic distribution of these projects is very exciting," Brennan said, noting the varying locations of these projects. "We’re going to really be able to make a difference in helping people who are experiencing homelessness."

Brennan said in total, there will be more than 74 new units of housing, once these developments are complete. 

According to a MaineHousing press release, these projects will include the redevelopment of two motels on Route 2 in Farmington into 34 apartment units with $7.25 million, the redevelopment of a hotel in Bangor into 36 housing units with $4.25 million, and the construction of six new housing units in Kittery with $1.77 million.

Brennan said the projects that include the redevelopment of an already-existing building should move relatively quickly once they begin.

"We’ve had to use hotels for housing throughout the pandemic, but a hotel room really is not the optimal place for a person to live. However, if you can convert a hotel into permanent housing, then you have your infrastructure there already," Brennan said. 

Brennan said the homelessness crisis is statewide, which is why these housing units will primarily serve those without shelter. 

Jason Bird, the housing development director at Penquis, said right now, there are about 200 people in Bangor alone experiencing homelessness.

"We know that number has at least tripled over the past couple of years," Bird said. "Naturally, that number dwindles just a little bit during the winter months, but there’s still a high number of people that remain unsheltered."

Work on these new developments hasn't begun yet, but Bird and Brennan said they're hoping it will by the fall. Bird said since the hotel in Bangor is just being redeveloped and not built from the ground up, it could be ready by the "dead of winter."

MaineHousing said the three selected proposals met "strict program guidelines," which include the promise to house people who have survived domestic violence, have recently been released from a mental health facility, are experiencing homelessness, or are at risk of experiencing homelessness.

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