A three-year effort by Bath Housing Authority culminated Jan. 30 with an open house for a pair of new apartments that will soon be offered to residents of the city.

The new apartments, located behind Morse High School at 28 Maple St., now occupy what was a dilapidated mess of a building.

Through a Community Development Block Grant worth over half-a-million dollars, Bath Housing acquired the house in 2016 and has since completely renovated it, along with other  homes in the Bath area.

Properties like these were previously bank owned and in lengthy foreclosure processes. Typically, that means maintenance is kept to a bare minimum, said Bath Housing Executive Director Debora Keller.

“We can’t figure out how long it was abandoned,” she said of the Maple Street property.

Signs of its abandonment were obvious from the exterior. Paint was peeling in large sections, holes in the walls allowed water directly inside, and landscaping was steadily turning into a wildlife habitat.

Inside was even worse. Neglect, water, and animal damage hadn’t been kind to the home, built in the 1800s.

Architect John Shields and Ganneston Construction Group was tasked with renovating the building, and transformed it from a side-by-side duplex into a top-bottom duplex. Entire stairways were removed, plumbing rearranged, flooring rejuvenated, and more.

Comprised of a three-bedroom and a four-bedroom apartment, the new housing is a welcome addition to Bath Housing’s stock.

“We need a range of housing options here,” Keller said. Many of Bath Housing’s options are studio or one-bedroom apartments. Large apartments, suitable for families, are in short supply.

Keller, and Bath Housing, have been vocal about the city’s need for mixed-income or affordable housing in the past. She advocated for a mixed-income development at the city-owned 26 Summer St. lot, which would have placed up to 49 new affordable apartments downtown. City Council ultimately shot down the proposal due to parking concerns.

A previous report by the Coastal Journal in 2017 found that Bath faces worse-than-state-average affordability for new apartments.

Data from Maine State Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows that Bath renters tend to have median incomes lower than the average. It also shows vacancies are on the decline, while prices are increasing.

Those factors are part of what make projects like the one on Maple Street so important, said Keller. “This project does a lot of things.”

Not only is it providing housing for families, it restores a historic home in the city’s federal historic district.

Keller said Bath Housing hopes to complete similar projects in the future by revitalizing other aging houses in the city.

For more information about the project and Bath Housing, visit bathhousing.org.

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