BRUNSWICK – Hundreds of military housing units could soon join the real estate market, much to the chagrin of town officials and redevelopers of Brunswick Naval Air Station.

Balfour Beatty PLC, a United Kingdom-based engineering, construction and housing provider, informed the town and Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority on Monday that in January it will begin marketing approximately a third of the 2,300 BNAS housing units its subsidiary owns in Brunswick and Topsham.

Town and MRRA officials responded with a mix of disappointment and worry. They fear that a massive influx of base housing will depress already sagging housing and rental values.

Steve Levesque, MRRA executive director, said Tuesday that Balfour Beatty’s decision is a serious concern, adding that MRRA had hoped to deploy a phasing strategy to introduce the units onto the market.

“We thought we could control and manage the disposition to mitigate impacts on local real estate markets,” Levesque said, adding that MRRA recently received $90,000 from the federal Office of Economic Adjustment to deploy such a strategy.

“I was hopeful it would be more phased rather than what appears to be a housing surge,” he added.

But Mark Lavin, Balfour Beatty’s Brunswick liaison, sought to ease those fears, stressing that his organization’s decision was to simply test the market, not to “swamp it.”

“Putting it out there and offering it does not close a sale,” Lavin said, adding that the town, MRRA and U.S. Navy would all be notified of potential transactions. “We’re not going to do anything in the dark,” Lavin said. “It’s too much pain, too emotional.”

Lavin informed MRRA and town officials of Beatty’s plans during a conference call on Monday. Assistant Town Manager Gary Brown briefed the Town Council that evening.

“It’s the day we all knew was coming,” Brown told councilors. “It could be significant. We’re not sure what to expect.”

Lavin said Beatty’s plans – including sharing information about potential sales and marketing data – were explained during the conference call.

“The positive side of this is that if there’s interest it can be used by the town and be in keeping with the desires with (MRRA’s) reuse plan,” Lavin said. He said Beatty’s move could potentially attract national buyers and raise awareness about development opportunities at BNAS.

Earlier this year, Balfour Beatty and the U.S. Navy formed a partnership called Northeast Housing LLC to jointly own housing units. However, the U.S. Navy owns exclusive rights to the land. That means buyers would own the buildings, but not the land.

For that reason, Lavin said, Beatty will market the properties as rental units.

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