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Penobscot Nation receives funding for tribal elder housing

On Jan. 15, the Penobscot Nation celebrated the official opening of their new 24 unit apartment building, which was made possible by a California company’s $2.1 million financing deal. This apartment building, known as the Penobscot Elder Homes, will provide affordable housing equipped with special features for the elders within the Penobscot tribe.

The Penobscot Nation is a native tribe that is considered to be a sovereign nation. This can impose challenges when looking for investors for projects such as building an apartment complex, as many investors often do not see the benefit of investing in first nations’ communities. However, a generous investment from Hunt Capital Partners was able to help the people of the Penobscot Nation.

The California company closed on the financing deal with the Penobscot Nation in April of last year. According to the company’s website, Hunt Capital Partners specialize in the syndication of federal and state low-income housing, in addition to interest in historic and solar tax credits. The money the Penobscot Nation received came in the form of federal low-income housing tax credit equity financing. This is the Penobscot Nation’s first low-income housing tax credit deal.

The total project cost was $5.79 million. To cover the cost, Bangor Savings Bank contributed a $750,000 construction loan, and MaineHousing provided a $3 million construction loan. The Penobscot Nation was able to provide $3.4 million to cover costs from soft construction to permanent loans.

The new building will have 16 one-bedroom apartments, as well as eight two-bedroom units. The building was designed to be a place for tribal elders to live and was equipped with specific features for them. The building includes a common space for residents and a laundry room, in addition to a commercial kitchen that will be used to provide meals. Eight of the 24 units will also be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible.

“Maine has an older demographic and a lot of people are aging, so this provides affordable housing for the elderly. Another nice feature of [the building] is the layout of it … [it has] handicap accessibility and walk-in showers. It is made so that people can age in place as opposed to having to move,” Michael Bush, the Penobscot Nation Housing Department Head, said.

Almost half of the households on Indian Island have a head of household that is age 55 or older. Those that qualify to live in one of the units must meet other standards as well. They must have incomes up to 50 or 60% of the reserve’s median income. For a single occupant, the income limit is said to be $31,080, and for two occupants the limit is said to be $35,520.

The complex is strategically situated less than a mile away from a health clinic and all residents will have the ability to use the transportation and community services coordination that the tribe provides.

In the past, there was an apartment building that housed a number of elders within the Penobscot Nation. This building was known as the Nohkomess Apartment and was built during the 1970s. It had eight units, but due to lack of maintenance, it was no longer suitable to house people in. It was torn down prior to the building of the new apartment building. All of the families that had been living in this complex will be moved into the new units.

The new complex is thought to be the solution to the overcrowded senior households that were on the reservation, while also providing many helpful features that residents can take advantage of. Through initiatives like this, communities can begin to build stronger foundations that will provide the opportunity for many community members to thrive through inclusive and accessible support systems.

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