New England News
6:00 pm
Wed November 14, 2012

Mass. Governor Announces 10,000 New Units of Affordable Housing Annually in Plan

The governor of Massachusetts recently announced a new plan to build thousands of new units of Affordable Housing in areas across the Commonwealth, while one Berkshire town submitted a proposal that help provide displaced residents with permanent housing. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

Yesterday, Governor Deval Patrick outlined a plan that he said would help build 10,000 new units of affordable housing annually in the Commonwealth. At the “Under One Roof” conference the Governor outlined what’s called the Compact Neighborhoods Program, which promises to revitalize town centers by encourage residential development.

Undersecretary of Housing and Economic Development Aaron Gornstein said that the state government is asking cities and towns to zone for well-planned housing in urban centers.

As an example, Gornstein said the state could help communities make infrastructure upgrades.

Gornstein said that the Compact Neighborhood joins other recent programs, including the Housing Development Incentive Program – or HDIP – designed to revitalize housing in Gateway Cities. Pittsfield is the site of the first HDIP project for its Onota/Howard building, which will add 39-units of affordable housing and 10 units of retail space.

But for other smaller communities in the Berkshires, affordable housing can be hard to find, according to Cathy Yamamoto, chair of Williamstown’s affordable housing committee.

According to Yamamoto when Hurricane Irene struck last year and wiped out most of the Spruces mobile home park, it created an even greater need for permanent, replacement affordable housing.

The Town of Williamstown has filed for 6.2 million dollars in funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency – or FEMA – to purchase the Spruces from owners Morgan Management, demolish the park, and in its place construct a permanent structure for low to moderate income residents displaced by Irene.

Town Manager Peter Fohlin explains…

In memo released by Fohlin, it’s stated that under Massachusetts state law, the residents of the Spruces will have at least 45 days to exercise their right of first refusal to purchase the park. Fohlin hopes however, that the plan will put the people remaining in the ruined park “out of harm’s way.”