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September 29, 2020

Riverview Terrace Navigates RAD Renovation To Continue Providing Affordable Housing to Low-Income Seniors in Westbrook, Maine

Image of Riverview Terrace, a three-story brick building, on 21 Knight Street in Westbrook, Maine.Riverview Terrace, an affordable housing complex for low income seniors, opened in Westbrook, Maine, in spring 2019. Photo credit: Westbrook Housing File Photos

One-fifth of Maine’s population is older than 65, but much of the state’s housing stock is ill-suited for older residents, lacking accessibility and, often, affordability. Many older households have not saved enough for retirement, and low-income seniors who rent are especially likely to face affordability challenges. The renovation of Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods provide a critical source of aging-friendly housing in Westbrook, a suburb of Portland. In 2013, Westbrook Housing was awarded a contract through the HUD Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program that allowed the agency to attract private investment to make significant capital improvements to the two deteriorating properties, making them suitable for older and disabled residents.

A Development Process With “Lots of Chapters”

Westbrook Housing is a small public housing agency with aging properties. By 2013, Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods were particularly in need of updates. The buildings were “very well kept,” says Chris LaRoche, executive director of Westbrook Housing, but their “useful life [was] over.”

An apartment kitchen with a refrigerator, cabinets, countertops, sink, and oven.Through a RAD conversion, the interiors of Larrabee Woods were completely redone, with new appliances and fixtures. Photo credit: Westbrook Housing File Photos

With “diminishing returns” on its properties and lacking the funds for the buildings’ basic maintenance and utilities, LaRoche says Westbrook Housing knew it could not undertake a costly remodel on its own. A RAD conversion, however, allowed the agency to attract private capital to finance the renovation of the two properties with assistance from Westbrook Development Corporation (WDC), its 501(c)(3) HUD Community Housing Development Organization, along with Anew Development.

Anew Development principal Ethan Boxer-Macomber says the RAD conversion and renovation process had “lots of chapters.” Congress first authorized RAD in 2012 to help reduce the backlog of needed public housing improvements. Westbrook Housing submitted its application for the program to HUD in December 2013, but it was not approved until March 2015. The project experienced an additional delay when, after a very competitive process, MaineHousing, the state’s housing finance agency, did not award the development low-income housing tax credits in 2015, although it did award the credits in 2016. Northern New England Housing Investment Fund facilitated tax credits. Westbrook Housing also benefited from state affordable housing subsidies generated through Maine’s real estate transfer tax. The Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston’s Affordable Housing Program issued $2 million in grants and loan subsidies for the project. Local lender Gorham Saving Bank provided a low-interest loan as the final financing component for the RAD conversion. By the end of 2016, Westbrook Housing had secured the nearly $7 million needed for the renovation. The project was delayed once again as MaineHousing postponed construction loan closings while adjusting to new tax laws. The renovation finally began in January 2018 and was completed by February 2019. The buildings officially reopened in February 2019.

Renovation and Building Details

Riverview Terrace was originally built in 1974 next to Riverbank Park on the Presumpscot River. Nearby Larrabee Woods was built in 1983 within walking distance of Main Street. Under the RAD renovation, the exterior brickwork, doors, windows, and roofs of both properties were improved. Westbrook Housing gutted and rehabilitated the interiors, installing new plumbing; appliances; and electrical, fire alarm, and fire suppression systems as well as modernizing the finishes. Many of these upgrades meet higher energy- and environmental-efficiency standards, and developers used HUD’s Green Physical Needs Assessment software, which guides builders in their efforts to meet green building standards for features such as elevators and circuit breakers. The renovation also included modifications such as handrails, low light switches, and widened doorways to meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A gathering room with four tables, each with four chairs, with tablecloths and flower vases on them.Both Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods have their own community rooms, and residents decide what events to host. Photo credit: Westbrook Housing File Photos

These updates improve the suitability of the properties for their residents, most of whom are older than 55. Some residents are younger people with disabilities, and some live in the 17 units designated for people experiencing homelessness. Many of the residents who lived in the properties before the RAD conversion to HUD project-based rental-assisted housing returned after the renovations, and Westbrook Housing tried hard not to unduly disrupt their lives. Both buildings are 100 percent occupied, LaRoche confirmed. Studio apartments rent for $517 per month, one-bedroom units for $618, and two-bedroom units for $762. To qualify for an apartment at either building, households must earn less than 50 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), and a significant number of apartments are set aside for households with incomes at or below 30 percent of AMI.

Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods offer specialized services for senior residents such as homemaker services, assistance with errands, and transportation to medical appointments. Under a partnership with the University of New England, Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods will have visits from physician assistants, social workers, physical therapists, and dentists. In October 2020, the complexes will open a telemedicine room so seniors can make fewer trips to outside doctor appointments. Each building offers a “resident-driven” community room, and Larrabee Woods has a computer room for residents’ use. Westbrook Housing also receives annual grant awards from HUD’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps HUD-assisted households become more self-sufficient, and Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods residents are eligible to participate. Westbrook Housing enables residents to live healthier lives and age independently, an option preferred by seniors who want to age in place.

Both Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods are in thriving neighborhoods with stores, restaurants, transportation stops, and city services within walking distance, and residents often participate in community block parties and events. The buildings also have green areas on campus and are located along the Sebago to the Sea Trail, a 28-mile route connecting Sebago Lake with Casco Bay, where Mainers can exercise along the Presumpscot River.

A First for Maine

Riverview and Larrabee were the first and, thus far, the only projects in Maine to use a RAD conversion, and Westbrook Housing has been applauded for its work. The projects received recognition as one of Maine Real Estate & Development Association’s (MEREDA’s) Top 6 Most Notable Projects of 2018 for being among select projects that “not only embody MEREDA’s belief in responsible real estate development, but also exemplify best practices in the industry, contributing to Maine’s economic growth by significant investment of resources and job creation statewide.” Riverview Terrace and Larrabee Woods offer a supportive model for seniors who would prefer to age in their own homes with ready access to needed resources at or near home.

Source:

Patrick Sisson, Jeff Andrews, and Alex Bazeley. 2020. "The Affordable Housing Crisis, Explained." Curbed, 2 March. Accessed 1 September 2020; National Apartment Association. 2017. “Housing Accessibility Requirements: Addressing the Misconceptions,” 9 May. Accessed 9 September 2020; Teresa Wiltz. 2019. “HUD Spends Millions on Lead Abatement. Why Are Public Housing Authorities Still Struggling?Stateline, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 17 December. Accessed 9 September 2020; Bob Pisani. 2019. "Baby Boomers Face Retirement Crisis — Little Savings High Health Costs, and Unrealistic Expectations," 9 April. Accessed 15 September 2020; Jeff Stein. 2019. “’This will be catastrophic’: Maine families face elder boom, worker shortage in preview of nation’s future,” Washington Post, 14 August. Accessed 8 September 2020; Westbrook Housing. 2019. "Westbrook Housing 2020-2024 Five Year Plan." Accessed 1 September 2020; Anew Development. “About — Ethan Boxer-Macomber, LEED AP.” Accessed 9 September 2020; Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. “Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD)." Accessed 1 September 2020.

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Source:

Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, principal at Anew Development, 27 August 2020; Westbrook Housing. n.d. “Westbrook Housing Properties.” Accessed 8 September 2020; Susan Collins, U.S. Senator for Maine. 2019. “Senator Collins Attends Westbrook Housing Celebration.” Accessed 9 September 2020.

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Source:

Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, principal at Anew Development, 27 August 2020; Email correspondence with Chris LaRoche, 18 August 2020; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. "Community Housing Development Organizations Fact Sheet." Accessed 1 September 2020.

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Source:

Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, 27 August 2020; Maine Real Estate & Development Association. 2019. “The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Riverview Terrace Apartments,” Maine Real Estate Insider, 18 June. Accessed 8 September 2020; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. “Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD)." Accessed 1 September 2020; Email correspondence with Ethan Boxer-Macomber, 11 September 2020.

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Source:

Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Riverview Terrace." Accessed 1 September 2020; Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Larrabee Woods." Accessed 1 September 2020; Maine Real Estate & Development Association. 2019. “The Right Equation for Responsible Development: Spotlight on Riverview Terrace Apartments,” Maine Real Estate Insider, 18 June. Accessed 8 September 2020; Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, 27 August 2020; Westbrook Housing. 2019. "Westbrook Housing 2020-2024 Five Year Plan." Accessed 1 September 2020; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2015. “Green Physical Needs Assessment (GPNA) Tool.” Accessed 14 September 2020.

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Source:

Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Riverview Terrace." Accessed 1 September 2020; Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Larrabee Woods." Accessed 1 September 2020; Email correspondence with Chris LaRoche, 28 August 2020.

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Source:

Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Larrabee Woods." Accessed 1 September 2020; Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, 27 August 2020; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. n.d. "Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program." Accessed 1 September 2020.

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Source:

Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, 27 August 2020.; Sebago to the Sea Trail. n.d. “About Us.” Accessed 8 September 2020.

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Source:

Interview with Chris LaRoche and Ethan Boxer-Macomber, 27 August 2020; Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Riverview Terrace." Accessed 1 September 2020; Westbrook Housing. n.d. "Larrabee Woods." Accessed 1 September 2020; Maine Real Estate & Development Association. 2019. “Maine Real Estate & Development Association Awards Top 6 Notable Projects of 2018,” press release, 8 May. Accessed 8 September 2020.

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