Chapter Contents:

A. Overview   [TOP]

In 1988, the Governor's Task Force on Affordable Housing wrote:

"A home is a roof over one's head, a warm, dry place to sleep. But it is more than that. It is a ticket in our society to basic rights and services: school for one's children, a place to vote, eligibility for government services....Homes express our deepest values as individuals, as families, and as a society."

Scarborough's evolving character is reflected in its housing: from the farm houses and coastal homes built in earlier times, to the modest, tightly knit single family neighborhoods as the Town moved into an era of suburbanization, to the larger homes on larger lots and the condominiums of the 1970s and 1980s. Scarborough is one of the most suburban of Greater Portland's towns, where much of its citizens' lives revolve around the home. It is not surprising, then, that issues of housing--its cost, its ability to accommodate people of different means, its quality, its location, and its surroundings--are central to this comprehensive plan.

B. The Housing Stock   [TOP]

In 1980, according to the U.S. Census, Scarborough had 4,056 year-round houses and 177 seasonal homes, for a total of 4,233 units. Of the year-round homes, 84.3% were single family, 10.8% were multifamily units, and 0.5% were mobile homes.

1990 Census information indicates that Scarborough in 1990 had a total of 5,391 units, year-round and seasonal, for an increase in the total housing stock of 1,158 units, or 27%.

TABLE 11-1
Scarborough Comprehensive Plan
Housing Stock, 1980-89












% yr-rd84.3%5.0%10.8%100%


% yr-rd80.9%6.1%13.0%100%

Source: U.S. Census

The proportions in Table 11-1 show that Scarborough remains a Town of mostly single family homes, although the share of multi-family units increased during the 1980s. The 1990 Census also suggests that the number of seasonal homes in Scarborough more than doubled during the 1980s, from 177 units to 431 units. This probably is not literally true. It may stem from "snowbirds" who live in Scarborough part of the year and in the south or elsewhere the rest of the year simply choosing to report their other residence as their year-round home.

C. Housing Tenure and Vacancy   [TOP]

According to the 1990 Census, 3,642 units, or 76.8% of occupied housing units, were owned and 1,100 units, or 23.2%, were rented. This breakdown in tenure indicates an increase in renters since 1980. See Table 11-2. However, Scarborough remains predominantly a town of homeowners.

TABLE 11-2
Scarborough Comprehensive Plan
Housing Tenure and Vacancies, 1980-90
Year-Round Units

Total # Year-round Units4,056-4,960-
Total # Occupied Units3,90596.3%4,74295.6
Total Vacant Units1513.72184.4
Total Owner Occupied3,047-3,462-
For Sale - Vacant341.1421.1
Renter Occupied858-1,100-
For Rent - Vacant485.3837.0
Other Vacant*69-93-

* Includes units for migratory workers (21 in 1990), units rented or sold but not yet occupied (35 in 1990), and vacant units that are being held off the market by owners (37 in 1990).

Source: U.S. Census

Scarborough's overall vacancy rate was 4.4% in 1990. This rate was slightly above the 1980 vacancy rate of 3.7%. Among homeowner units, the vacancy rate remained at a very low 1.1% in 1990, while among rental units, it increased from 5.3% in 1980 to 7.0% in 1990.

D. Housing Conditions   [TOP]

Scarborough's housing stock is relatively "young" and in good condition. As of 1990 about 19% of the stock was more than 50 years old (that is, built prior to 1940), which compared to 34.9% in Maine as a whole. There is virtually no "overcrowding" (defined as more than one person per room) in the Town's housing units and few units that lack complete plumbing and kitchen facilities.

Roughly one in five Scarborough renters paid more than 35% of their incomes for gross rental costs in 1990. About one in seven homeowners paid more than 35% of their income to mortgage, tax, and utility costs.

                        TABLE 11-3
               Scarborough Comprehensive Plan
                  Housing Problems in 1990



               Built <1939              18.7%
               Lack complete plumbing   1.0%
               Lack complete kitchen    0.3%
               Overcrowded              0.3%

               PAYING >35% INCOME

               <$10,000                 66.7%
               $10-$19,999              76.6%
               $20-$34,999               9.8%
               $35-$49,999               4.7%
               $50,000 +                 0.0%
               Total                    18.8%

               <$10,000                 69.6%
               $10-$19,999              37.1%
               $20-$34,999              21.8%
               $35-$49,999              10.2%
               $50,000 +                 2.8%
               Total                    14.2%

               Source: U.S. Census, 1990

E. Affordability   [TOP]

Housing Affordability Defined

Maine's Growth Management Law has specific definitions for measuring the affordability of homes and apartments. A home is affordable to a household if that household can pay its mortgage, utilities, and property taxes for a cost that doesn't exceed 28%-33% of its gross income. An apartment is affordable to a household if that household can pay rent and utilities for a cost not exceeding 30% of its gross income.

The law further requires comprehensive plans to consider prospects for housing that can be afforded by households with very low, low, and moderate incomes. Very low income is defined as an income less than 50% of the county median; low income is 50% to 80%; and moderate income is 80% to 150% of median income. The median household income in Cumberland County, according to the 1990 Census, was $32,286 (note: the 1990 Census recorded 1989 incomes).

Number of Very Low, Low, and Moderate Income Households

Using these definitions of very low, low, and moderate income households, there were as of 1990 in Scarborough an estimated:

These households are distributed by age of householder as shown in Table 11-4.

TABLE 11-4
Scarborough Comprehensive Plan
Estimated Distribution of Households
by Income and Age of Household
Age of Householder
Very Low Income5001878502460153117
Low Income57633111112628510469
Moderate Income1,4886532440226622015160
Middle/Upper Income2,176494726555383029468

A very low income household can "afford" a gross rent of no more than $403, or a home priced at no more than $22,000. A low income household can "afford" a gross rent of between $403 and $646, or a home priced at $17,000 to $52,000. A moderate income household can "afford" a gross rent of $646 up to $1,211, or a home priced at between $41,000 and $122,000.

TABLE 11-5
Scarborough Comprehensive Plan
Affordability Among Very Low, Low, and Moderate Income Households
Est. 1990
Very Low






% of County Median<50%50%-80%80%-150%
In Dollars<$16,143$16,143-$25,829$25,829-$48,429
No. Households (Est.)5005761,488
Affordable Gross Rent

(@ 30% of Income)

Home Purchase:
Affordable Mortgage, taxes, insurance, utilities

@ 30% of Income

Less property taxes, ins., util.±251*±281**±358***
Affordable mortgage payment exc. taxes, insurance$152$122-$365$288-$853
Affordable price****<$21,742$17,451-$52,210$41,196-$122,016
Round to:<$22,000$17,500-$52,000$41,000-$122,000

* Assumes $126 in taxes and insurance, $125 utilities
** Assumes $156 in taxes and insurance, $125 utilities
*** Assumes $233 in taxes and insurance, $125 utilities
**** Assumes 10% downpayment, 8.5% interest rate, and 30-year term

Sources: U.S. Census
         National Planning Data Corp.
         Market Decisions, Inc.

Number of Households in Need of Affordable Housing

Not all households that fall within one of these income ranges have an unfulfilled need for housing. Some are renters who are in an acceptable unit at a price affordable for them (for example, a publicly assisted unit or an older private unit). Some are renters who, given their age or employment situation, would not choose to buy a home even if they had the opportunity. Some, such as many senior households, may have low incomes (because they are retired) but already own a home with little, if any, mortgage and are satisfied where they are.

To get a more accurate picture of the number of households in Scarborough with affordable housing needs, it is useful to look at three specific groups:

(1) Moderate income households in their typical first-time homebuying years: These are households headed by 25 to 44 year olds with moderate incomes as defined by the state (roughly $25,829 to $48,429). These represent an estimated 15% of all households in Scarborough, or approximately 726 households. Statewide data suggest that perhaps three-quarters of households in this age-and-income group, or about 545 households, would buy a home if they could afford to. Based on 1990 Census data, it can be roughly estimated that 350 to 400 such households already do own their homes. This leaves a need for on the order of 150 to 200 homes priced in a range for first-time homebuyers ($41,000 to $122,000 in 1989 dollars). Over the next decade, this demand may start to diminish as the number of households in this age range, and especially the 25 to 34 year old age range, begins to decline.

(2) Very low income elderly households with a need/desire to rent: These are households that (a) are headed by a person at least 62 years old, (b) have incomes below the federally established incomes for eligibility in subsidized rental housing projects, and (c) have a desire or need to rent. Statewide data indicates that 30% to 40% of low income senior citizen households would rent if decent, affordable (which for this group probably means assisted or subsidized) housing were available. (The others already are in owned homes in which they want to stay, live with family, already have suitable private-market rents, etc.)

There are an estimated 300 to 325 elderly households in Scarborough that fall within the very low income guidelines. Of these, about 90 to 125 have a need and desire to move to or upgrade their rental situation. To be affordable, gross rents would have to be less than $403 per month (1989 dollars). Over the next decade, this need will increase somewhat as the number of seniors, particularly those over 75 years old, grows.
(3) Very low and low income family households with a need/desire to rent: These are households headed by a person under 62 years old that have incomes below the federally established incomes for eligibility in subsidized or assisted rental housing projects, and have a desire or need to rent. Statewide data indicates that 40% to 45% of low income family households are renters and need decent, affordable (i.e., subsidized or assisted) housing.
There are an estimated 525 to 550 nonelderly households in Scarborough that fall within these income and age guidelines. Of these, an estimated 215 to 250 have a need and desire to move to or upgrade their rental situations. Affordable gross rents would be less than $403 per month for very low income households and less than $646 per month for low income households (1989 dollars). Over the next decade, this level of need probably will grow at the same rate as the Town's overall population. A higher percentage of this group might be pushed into a need for assisted housing if jobs and incomes lag behind rising housing costs.

In sum, there is a need for on the order of 150 to 200 "affordable" home purchase opportunities in Scarborough and for on the order of 305 to 375 "affordable" rental opportunities, of which 90 to 125 are for the elderly and 215 to 250 are for nonelderly households.

Supply of Affordable Housing

Some of these needs are being met by existing units in Scarborough.

For the most part, single family homes are priced beyond the means of moderate income households in search of their first purchase. Exceptions may be mobile homes, some condominiums, older homes in neighborhoods that have not seen major appreciation in recent years, and some subdivisions where prices have been targeted in the $89,000 to $120,000 range. Prices have fallen during the present real estate recession, but realistically, most available units do not meet the needs of young households in the bottom half of the "moderate income" range.

As of 1990, according to data from real estate transfer taxes, the average price of a home in Scarborough was $181,000. Between 1986 and 1990, the average price increased at an average annual rate of 16.2%.

TABLE 11-6
Scarborough Comprehensive Plan
Housing Prices

ScarboroughCape ElizabethGorhamSouth PortlandWestbrookCumberland County
Ave. Ann. %16.2%10.2%10.5%8.8%8.6%10.6%
90 comparison$0$30,903$51,772$76,208$75,190$46,701
90 difference0.0%17.0%-28.5%-42.0%-41.5%-13.5%

*Reflects Urban-Rural-Condo sales.

Source: Maine State Housing Authority data from Real Estate Transfer Tax records. Data reported on fiscal year (July 1 - June 30); for example, 1986 data reflects sales from July 1, 1985 to June 30, 1986.

At the same time as the average price reached $181,000, there were a few "affordable" opportunities for home ownership. A review of the Maine Multiple Listing Service, Inc., at the end of 1990 found the following distribution of units in Scarborough in the "affordable housing" range:

      Less than $22,000 1 mobile home
      $22,001 - $41,000 2 mobile homes
      $41,001 - $52,000 1 mobile home
      $52,001 - $70,000 2 single family detached homes
      $70,001 - $80,000 4 condominiums
      $80,001 - $90,000 6 single family detached homes, 6 condominiums
      $90,001 - $100,000 8 single family detached homes, 7 condominiums
      $100,001 - $110,000 6 single family detached homes, 4 condominiums
      $110,001 - $122,000 16 single family detached homes, 6 condominiums

In addition, at that time there were listed an estimated 29 lots priced such that an affordable home could be built for $122,000 or less.

Three subsidized or assisted rental developments are located in Scarborough.

One federally assisted elderly rental housing project in Scarborough is The Village at Oak Hill at 72 Gorham Road. The Village at Oak Hill is owned by Oak Hill Village Associates, a private partnership. The project is made up of 38 Section 8 units which include 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units, and 1 bedroom units that are accessible to the handicapped. The project provides deep subsidies to its tenants and is specifically for low income elderly (62 years old or older) households. These households pay 30% of their incomes to rent. Alpha Management, which manages the property, indicates that there is an applicant pool and waiting list. The average waiting time to obtain a unit is 1.5 to 2 years.

There are also two State assisted rental housing projects.

One is The Oaks located at 79 Gorham Road. It is owned by The Oaks Associates, a private partnership. The project includes 60, 1, 2, and 3 bedroom units, and 2 bedroom units which are accessible to the handicapped. This project is supported through the State Rental Housing Loan Program (RHLP) which offers special financing to the owner in exchange for reserving 20% of the units for income qualified low income tenants. The 80% market-rate rental units help subsidize the reduced rent units. Alpha Management, which also manages this property, indicates that there is a waiting list for the reduced rent units.

The other State supported project also uses RHLP. It is called Meadow Woods and is located at 62 Gorham Road. It is owned by Meadow Woods Associates, a private partnership, and is made up of 37 units. The project includes an 80%/20% mix of market rate/reduced rent units. Alpha Management, which manages this project, indicates that there is a waiting list for the reduced rate units.

The South Portland Housing Authority indicates that it has 11 scattered units in Scarborough in which tenants receive assistance under the Section 8 program. The Portland Housing Authority has 2 or 3 such units.

These developments reduce the estimated need for affordable rental housing by 68 units, to between 235 and 305 units.

F. Required Affordable Housing Goal   [TOP]

State law requires that "the municipality seek to achieve a level of 10% of new residential development...meeting the definition of affordable housing." In Scarborough, which anticipates between 1,000 and 1,100 new households between 1990 and 2003 (see mid-level projection in Chapter 4, Population), this translates into a goal of about 100 units through 2003. This would meet about a quarter of the total potential need for 385 to 505 units, both rental and owned, identified in this section. Given the proportions of need, a large share of these should be targeted to very low and low income households.

G. Scarborough Housing Alliance   [TOP]

In May of 1991 the Scarborough Town Council created the Scarborough Affordable Housing Alliance. The Alliance is made up of 14 local residents representing a cross-section of the community. The Alliance has been inventorying the community to assess the extent of need in Scarborough. It is considering strategies to meet the need for affordable housing.

In June of 1992, the State accepted Scarborough as a Maine Affordable Housing Community. This gives the Alliance official recognition and is prerequisite to procuring state funding.

H. Issues and Implications   [TOP]

(1) Are there elements of Scarborough's zoning and subdivision ordinances that are barriers to the development of affordable housing? If so, does the Town want to consider amendments to eliminate provisions which may unnecessarily increase development costs?

(2) Does the Town want to consider the incorporation into ordinances of incentives to encourage the private development of affordable housing, i.e., density incentives for projects that include units that will be designated for low and or moderate income purchasers? Are there provisions that could be designed to encourage the development of more affordable rental housing?

(3) Should accessory apartments be considered in single-family districts?

(4) Rising housing costs in Scarborough and other coastal communities are making it difficult for young people to buy and or build their first homes. Although the real estate market has flattened out, many moderate income home buyers have been priced out of nearly all coastal communities. Does the Town want to consider the development of a low interest loan pool to assist Scarborough's low and moderate income households in purchasing their first home? Public funds like Community Development Block Grant Funds may be able to be used as seed money to leverage private sources of funds.

(5) In some cases land costs in Scarborough are prohibitive for many first-time home buyers. Does Scarborough want to consider contributing toward some part of land acquisition costs for affordable housing?

(6) Should the Town continue to forge ties with groups like Habitat for Humanity to expand its expertise in the creation of affordable housing initiatives and to leverage outside funds wherever possible?

(7) Should the Town consider encouraging area housing authorities or housing development entities, like the South Portland Housing Authority or York-Cumberland Housing Development Corporation, or even private-for-profit entities, to develop housing in Scarborough to meet the needs defined in this inventory?

Note: Policies relating to housing are in Chapter 15, Part H.


Date Created: October 20, 1996
Joe Ziepniewski, Scarborough Planning Department, Scarborough, Maine