Thursday September 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity has come full circle: It's building its next affordable home next door to its first one.

The nonprofit devoted to creating affordable housing plans to build a single-family home on a vacant lot at 166 Dewey Ave. That's adjacent to 168 Dewey, where the local chapter built its first home in 1993, according to Habitat Executive Director Carolyn Valli.

Work will start early next summer on the single-story, handicap-accessible home.

It will be Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity's 26th home, all in Pittsfield.

"Increasing the percentage of home ownership is good in any community," she said.

Valli said Central Berkshire Habitat's mission is to build simple, affordable homes for first-time buyers. Applicants must demonstrate a housing need, have the ability to pay a mortgage, and a willingness to partner with the agency.

Habitat's latest project is part of an ongoing collaboration with Pittsfield to create affordable housing that results in city-owned properties returning to the tax rolls.

The City Council Tuesday night voted unanimously to sell -- for $1 -- the property at 166 Dewey Ave. to Habitat, which the city obtained through foreclosure in 2010.

In all, Pittsfield has sold the organization five surplus municipal lots toward affordable housing projects, including the one wrapping up at 47 Prospect St. Valli expects that two story-structure to be completed and sold in November.

In addition, Habitat for Humanity in previous years has rehabilitated four homes acquired by the city, according to the city's Department of Community Development.

"Our interest is to increase the number of owner-occupied homes in the city," said Robert Cornwell, the city's community development specialist.

Valli said most of Habitat's homes have been built on private lots that were sold or donated.

Habitat for Humanity's affordable housing has also boosted city coffers. Based on the most available data, developing the public and private sector lots has generated more than $300,000 in property taxes since 1999, according to Habitat. Valli said the majority of Habitat homes are occupied by the original owners.

"We will have some of them paying off their mortgages in the next few years," she added.

Meanwhile, Central Berk shire Habitat for Human ity has expanded to better serve its clientele. The group will occupy a second room on the second floor of Pittsfield's West Side Neighborhood Resource Cen ter for up to the next 10 years. Under a contract approved by the City Council on Tuesday night, Habitat's annual rent for the first year will be $2,364, or $197 per month.

"Right now, we literally have five people working in one room," Valli said. "Just to be able to have a quiet place to meet people so they can fill out an application will be nice."