Part of the Eastside Acres complex on Emery Street
By Zendelle Bouchard
At the City Council meeting on September 5, 2023, Plummer Potter, Project Director for the Sanford Housing Authority, made a presentation on the SHA’s proposal to convert its low-income public housing units at Sunset Tower and East Side Acres to a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) subsidy program, also known as Section 8. SHA already administers 593 vouchers in Sanford and surrounding communities.
Plummer said the biggest change in converting to the HCV system will be the income limits for tenants, which will be significantly lowered. In the current public housing model, the income limit for a single person is $54,050 and $77,200 for a family of four. Under HCV, the income limit for a single person is $33,800, with a family of four limited to $48,250. 103 of the 120 current tenants of Sunset Tower and East Side acres will continue to qualify under the HCV income limits, and they may stay in their apartments and continue to pay 30% of their income for rent, or they may elect to move to another HCV apartment. The 17 tenants whose income is above the new limit will have a year to relocate, with SHA providing assistance in finding new housing.
Councilors Jonathan Martell and Ayn Hanselmann expressed concern that those who no longer meet the income limits will not be able to find another affordable apartment. SHA Director Diane Small explained that the HCV program is designed for tenants to “graduate” out of the program as their income increases, and said her agency works with a network of 500 landlords as well as with York County Community Action. “We will not make people homeless,” she said. Rather, this will make more SHA rental units available to those who need them most.
If approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the actual conversion to the HCV program will take place in spring of 2024, following meetings with residents to explain the changes. Potter noted that other Maine housing authorities have converted their public housing to HCVs including South Portland, Bath, Brunswick and Westbrook.