Anti poverty activists want more housing for the poor in Springfield Massachusetts. The comprehensive master plan for rebuilding from the tornado does not call for more affordable housing to be built. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports..
A group of activists, numbering fewer than 20, staged a six hour long protest outside the mayor’s office in Springfield City Hall earlier this week. They set up a symbolic home in a hallway, with a throw rug , chairs and a table. Michaelann Bewsee of Arise For Social Justice, the protest organizers, called for a city task force on affordable housing.
Hundreds of housing units were destroyed by the June 1st tornado. Bewsee says the just published master plan for rebuilding talks about housing that will attract young professionals to Springfield, but does address the needs of people here now.
Geraldine McCafferty, the city’s director of housing, said the master plan’s goal is to rebuild stable communities.
McCafferty said the city is committed to working with the owners of tornado damaged affordable housing complexes to make these habitable once again.
A number of four story brick walk up apartment buildings that were damaged by the tornado and subsequently demolished will not be rebuilt, according to McCafferty. And, despite the city’s attempts to prevent it by taking landlords to court ,several have just walked away from their condemned buildings.
Peter Gagliardi, executive director of the nonprofit housing organization, HAP Housing, said the tornado rebuilding plan reflects how Springfield responded to the foreclosure crisis, but on a big scale and broadened to include commercial development.
Gagliardi serves on an advisory committee appointed by Mayor Domenic Sarno that helped to develop the rebuild plan.
As for the anti poverty activist’s demand for the mayor to create a housing task force, Sarno, through his spokesman , Tom Walsh, turned them down.
Walsh said the city recently received national recognition for its efforts to prevent homelessness.