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Diane Gerry, Executive Director of the Sanford Housing Authority, and Kim LaChance, Chair of the Board of Directors, presented their annual report to the City Council on June 15. Ms. Gerry gave an overview of SHA, which serves the surrounding communities of Alfred, Kennebunk, Lebanon, North Berwick, Wells, Shapleigh and Acton, as well as Sanford and Springvale.

Ms. LaChance told the Council that during the pandemic, SHA has been able to continue fulfilling its mission to provide safe, quality and affordable housing for eligible populations in need of assistance; and to promote opportunities for growth and development of residents as well as the community. Although they closed the office on School St. to in-person visits, they remained accessible to assist residents by phone and email. They were able to continue maintenance and begin new projects; host vaccination clinics; and continue planning for the organization’s long-term future. She spoke of her pride of the work done by SHA employees. “Each one of our staff bring to the table a unique skill set, each has a passion for housing and the people in need of it,” she said.

Ms. Gerry provided information on each of SHA’s properties in Sanford/Springvale, which comprise a total of 221 units. East Side Acres, which includes 48 units for families, and Sunset Tower, which is 72 apartments for seniors and the disabled, are public housing funded through the office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Village View (40 units) is a project-based rental assistance property for seniors 62+. The Maples is 26 units for seniors 55+, funded through low-income tax credits. The same funding supports Mayflower Place, with 35 assisted-living apartments. She noted that North Country Associates will soon be taking over providing services to the residents there, as Southern Maine Health Care is transitioning out of the long-term care business.

In addition to all of the properties it owns, SHA also administers 593 Housing Choice Vouchers (also known as Section 8) to tenants in landlord-owned housing. The current wait time is three to five years. A system which awards points to veterans, the disabled, elderly, currently employed people and those in an educational or training programs, can move people up on the waiting list. There is a screening process for applicants as well as an inspection process for landlords.

Ms. Gerry also talked about ways that SHA partners with the City of Sanford. One of the projects is a new home at 3 State Ct. The property was purchased from the city and is now being rebuilt, with a scheduled completion date in September. SHA works with the Land Bank as well as the Homeless Task Force to find solutions for housing.

New opportunities that SHA is developing include a Landlord Incentive Program, to encourage participation in the voucher system. Ms. Gerry indicated that SHA will be transitioning its public housing to the voucher system in the future, but that no tenants will be displaced by the change. A Landlord Association is also in the works, with the first meeting scheduled for July. A new senior housing development is in the planning stages, which she said will be similar to the Maples. She is also awaiting approval from HUD on the Envision Center, a homeless prevention resource hub to be located in Sunset Tower.

Maintenance projects for this year include repaving the parking areas at Village View and Sunset Tower; renovating the elevators at Sunset Tower and adding more washers and dryers; and repairing the community building at East Side Acres.

Councilor Jonathan Martell asked about reports he has heard of a new policy that window air conditioners at Sunset Tower must be removed, and only portable units are allowed going forward. Ms. Gerry said the policy was instituted after an a/c unit fell out of a sixth-story window, a major safety issue. She said there is a payment plan for the new units that anyone can apply for, but only 14 people have applied so far. Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy asked if the building could be converted to heat pumps. Ms. Gerry replied that in a concrete building from 1970, it is too costly to convert, but that all new projects would have them going forward.

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