Governor Baker plans to spend $1.1 billion on housing as part of his five-year capital plan. That is a genuine need across the state, and particularly in the Berkshires.
A recent report published in The Boston Globe found that the Berkshires dramatically trail the rest of the state in the creation of new housing. This isn't shocking as it reflects the Berkshires' small population and economic struggles, but it doesn't mean that there is no demand for housing.
That $1.1 billion represents an 18 percent increase over current levels. At a conference earlier this month in Boston hosted by the Urban Land Institute, a real estate trade group, the governor outlined some of his plans, which because they will be funded out of the capital budget, not the general budget, he has considerable say over.
Over those five years, $160 million would be dedicated to the construction of housing for low- and middle-income residents and the homeless. Another $100 million would go to refinancing apartments in privately owned buildings to keep them from becoming prohibitively expensive on the open market. Another $25 million, according to a Globe report, would be used on public/private affordable housing projects. It is unfortunate that there is an ugly stigma attached to such housing that has emerged at times in the Berkshires.
These are all good ideas, and we urge Berkshire legislators and municipal officials to work to assure the county gets its fair share. Affordable housing is of critical importance in attracting businesses that won't move anyplace that can't address the housing needs of its employees. Young residents are more likely to remain in the Berkshires if they can readily find good housing. Rehabilitating housing and building new housing are key components in fueling an economic revival in the region.