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Avesta Housing works to develop 100 housing units for asylum seekers

Avesta Housing hopes to move asylum seekers from hotels and into the apartment units towards the end of the year.

PORTLAND, Maine — Avesta Housing is preparing to open 100 housing units for asylum seekers. 

According to the non-profit housing developers President and CEO Dana Totman, the units will be in Portland and South Portland. They hope to move asylum seekers currently staying in hotels into the new units towards the end of the year.

"Having an apartment of one's own with a kitchen and dining area is the way people should be living," Totman said. 

Totman estimates that right now, around 300 asylum-seeking families are currently being housed in local hotels.

"As we can imagine, staying in hotels is expensive, and it's costing the city and state a lot of money. So, housing is certainly a less expensive option," Totman said. 


Totman could not share where the housing units will be located, but said it will be part of two different developments. 

Totman adds that Avesta is currently finalizing contracts and securing financing as part of the project, and hopes to be able to share more specifics about the project in September. Totman expects the first development to be completed by October.

Totman says that for two years, rent will be covered through funds allocated for affordable housing for asylum seekers in the state budget. After two years, once asylum seekers have had time to apply for asylum and work authorization, tenants will pay rent. 

Totman says it will be similar to other affordable housing units developed by Avesta.

"Getting this population out of the hotels, into their homes, getting them settled, and then within two years, they can start helping with the labor crisis that we have — that is just as big, frankly, as the housing crisis," Totman said. "And so, if we can secure the housing and get the housing stabilized, they can then start to fill many of the jobs that need to be filled."

"They're educated, they're motivated, they're young, they're willing to work, and that's exactly the community and people that we need so badly here in Maine," Reza Jalali, executive director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center said. 

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