CAMDEN — It’s a postage stamp of an in-town lot, with an abandoned house, but there is big interest by four different parties to acquire 7 Willow Street. By its very nature, the house and property are indirectly a bellwether for the current state of housing — and lack of affordable housing — in Camden and the broader Midcoast, something of which the Camden Select Board is keenly aware.
On Tuesday, Dec. 1, the board will review bids that were submitted over the last month to the town’s planning office in response to an invitation approved in October.
The Select Board had agreed then to issue a request for proposals for the property, with the goal of eventually divesting of the property that fell under municipal ownership for lack of property tax payment by previous owners.
The house, which sits on a quarter-acre lot at the intersection of Willow and Spruce streets, had been abandoned, “for a long time,” the town said, and is in need of extensive renovations.
According to the Oct. 6 meeting minutes, the board was: “not looking to put property out to highest bid – looking to work on town goals to provide better housing affordability. Habitat has expressed interest in the property. Move forward with advertising, collect expressions of interest or options.”
Willow Street is a short residential road that runs between Mechanic and Pearl streets.
Camden had acquired the property in 2019. The land is assessed at $114,400 and the house at $147,700. An outbuilding assessed at $17,200 results in a total property valuation of $279,300.
At the Dec. 1 meeting, the Camden Select Board will review the following four proposals that offer to take the property off of the town’s hands, for one price or another.
• Matthew and Allison Heath, a Camden firefighter and Oceanside High School math teacher, respectively, are offering $20,000 in cash for the property.
They will, they said, remove the existing home as soon as possible and build a new home that would be consistent in size and architecture so that it blends in with the neighborhood. Matt noted that the state of the foundation and deferred maintenance, plus the squatters, all resulted in a state of dereliction that would require approximately $320,000 to take it up to code and make it habitable.
He also noted that the couple has been renting an apartment in Camden and have tried for the last year to purchase an affordable home in town, to no avail. They want to start a family, and raise their children in the Midcoast, where they both grew up.
“Finding affordable real estate in Camden has even a challenge, especially for a young couple and first-time home buyer,” he said.
He wants to be close to the fire station, especially during the night and early morning hours when the station is unattended.
The Heaths hope to build a new home that will be energy efficient and self sufficient for sustainable living.
“Sustainability, self-sufficient living and gardening are all things Allison and I value and our new home and property will reflect that,” said Heath.
The couple is pre-approved for financing, said Heath.
• Pine Tree Real Estate LLC, in Waldoboro, is proposing to convert the property into a two-unit housing structure.
With this proposal, the house would be renovated within the current footprint, and be ready for occupancy by Summer/Fall 2021.
“We have bought and renovated numerous properties, including multiple tax-acquired ones, and always strive to do top-knotch work, while establishing good relationships with our neighbors and our subcontractors....
“If our plan pleases the Select Board, we would be happy to discuss in great detail plans of the property and a proposed purchase price.”
• Midcoast Habitat for Humanity is offering to redevelop the property into an affordable Habitat family home.
The nonprofit is asking the town to donate the property to Habitat.
“In the past several years, we have had several applications and inquiries from residents seeking affordable home ownership in Camden but unfortunately have been unable to assist them due to a lack of acquirable properties,” wrote Executive Director Tia Anderson.
“We see 7 Willow Street as a potential opportunity to either rehabilitate or redevelop (based on inspection) the property with the same commitment and value to health, efficiency, aesthetics and affordability.”
• Dan Ford, Ford Enterprises, of Hope, is offering $81,100 for the house and land, with the idea of efficiently turning, “this house into a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing house for somebody to call home in the Midcoast.”
Ford said he enjoys buying older houses and land at auction, foreclosure or private sales, and renovating them to the best condition, “they have been in since they were probably new.”
He either sells or rents them.
“I realize the town of Camden does not want 7 Willow Street flipped, rather, an affordable rental in the community,” he wrote. “That being said, keeping this as an affordable long-term rental is what my plan would be for this property, once renovated. Short term rentals (Air BnB, etc.) would not be an option.”
He said another possibility would be to turn the building into a duplex, with a second story accessory apartment.
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