Robert L. Harnois Apartments resident Sharon Robertson addresses the crowd at an Oct. 22 ceremony commemorating the grand opening of two new affordable senior housing projects in Westbrook. Chance Viles / American Journal
Sharon Robertson found waiting list upon waiting list when she searched for affordable housing throughout the state.
“I was unable to buy a house. I’d been looking for a while, calling everywhere, looking online,” Robertson told the American Journal.
Now she’s a resident of Westbrook Housing Authority’s newly opened Robert L. Harnois Apartments, which together with the authority’s new Lewis H. Emery Apartments add 91 apartments of affordable housing in the city.
The Westbrook Housing Authority celebrated the opening of the two buildings off Lisa Harmon Drive last week.
Harnois resident Anne Swan shows off her bedroom and her cat. Both new WHA buildings allow one dog or cat under 20 pounds. Chance Viles / American Journal
Combined, the Harnois and Emery apartments include 81 subsidized units for tenants receiving U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development Housing Choice Vouchers. The two buildings had been approved pre-pandemic, but construction took a small detour until the past few months when the projects wrapped up.
Residents have already moved into the Harnois building, and Emery residents are expected to move in within the next week or two.
Housing Director Chris LaRoche said the buildings are a start on addressing the waitlist of over 1,300 for the Housing Authority, which serves about 1,300 people.
According to MaineHousing’s 2020 Annual Report, approximately 25,000 new units of affordable housing are needed across the sate to meet the demand.
Robertson went back and forth, staying at her sisters’ homes while she looked for her own place in a senior-friendly location. Some of the places she looked into had waiting lists of two years or more, she said.
“I feel so blessed to have found this community, I’ve made so many friends here,” she said at the Oct. 22 grand opening ceremony.
Rents in the new buildings, named in honor of former Westbrook Housing Authority commissioners, are subsidized at 30% of household annual adjusted gross income, and all utilities are included.
Each building has handicapped-friendly or -accessible rooms, a common space and access to all of the resident services on campus like telehealth.
“I am very excited. I’ve wanted a place of my own but they always get snapped up,” said Anne Swan, another Harnois resident.
At the ceremony, Mayor Mike Foley noted the creation of senior housing opens up housing for others in need elsewhere.
“It has been great to see the campus grow and keep seniors in our community,” Foley said.
The Robert L. Harnois Apartments are across a parking lot from the similarly styled and sized Lewis H. Emery Apartments, which will be occupied in the next few weeks. Chance Viles / American Journal
Westbrook Housing Authority Director Chris LaRoche speaks at the grand opening ceremony last week. Chance Viles / American Journal