NORTH ADAMS — The 14 residents displaced from the Louison House shelter following last month's fire have begun moving into the Flood House.
The occupancy began last week, said Mark Farrington, board president of the Family Life Support Center, which oversees the shelter.
"We are looking forward to returning to normalcy," he said. "People want a place to call home."
The city Housing Authority has granted a temporary lease to the center, which allows the use of Flood House as a temporary shelter.
The June 26 fire at the Adams building was small and was quickly extinguished by the sprinkler system, which also left considerable water damage.
Furniture and structures including mattresses, at least one ceiling, personal belongings, and other parts of the building were left saturated. The town building inspector deemed the structure uninhabitable.
Shelter residents were put up in local motels and have stayed at motels until moving into Flood House.
Work crews continue to dry out the shelter at 395 Old Columbia St., and some repair work has begun there, Farrington said.
"They are working but we still don't have a full assessment of the scope of the renovation work," he said.
Plans are to repair Louison House and continue its use as a temporary shelter for homeless people, he said.
Authority members approved a sale of the Flood House to the center in November 2015, but the transaction has not been completed.
Additionally, when center staff went to the house to prepare it for occupancy, they discovered some water damage at the property. Louison House residents were unable to move into Flood House until the damage was repaired.
The Flood House was purchased by the housing authority in 1982 for $65,000 with a state Department of Housing and Community Development grant. The property was designated as Chapter 689 housing, meaning that the units are mandated for occupancy by people with needs most often served by the state Department of Mental Health and Department of Developmental Services.
As years passed by and the population aged, properties with multiple floors and stairways no longer provided the best living spaces. Renovation costs were high and people were moved from the properties.
Even when Chapter 689 properties became vacant, the housing mandate remained in place. Special legislation was needed to allow the sale of these properties and the Flood House sale is the first to occur under the new guidelines.
The legislation requires that a request for proposals be submitted by interested purchasers and that the sale price for the accepted buyer be $1. Any sale must also earn state Housing and Community Development approval.
Housing Authority Executive Director Jennifer Hohn said it was extremely important to include language that would maintain the property as affordable permanent housing in perpetuity.
An affordability restriction will be placed on the property as part of any sale. State officials said last week that they expected to provide a final draft of the restriction to center and housing authority officials at the end of the week for their review.
Once both entities agree to the language, a closing date can be scheduled, according to state information.
Hohn said the housing authority has been granted the necessary state permission for the temporary Flood House use as a shelter.
Hohn and Farrington said that Hohn and newly hired life support center executive Director Kathy Keeser are negotiating who will pay for Flood House repairs.
Hohn said the authority will pay for the emergency repairs that were just completed, and she added that the building was given a Certificate of Compliance permitting occupancy. Some cosmetic work remains and those costs are in negotiation, Hohn said.
Once Louison House is ready for occupancy, residents will return there and Flood House will be used for permanent housing under the terms of the restriction.
"It's a beautiful property," Hohn said "Our (housing authority) only involvement after a sale will be through oversight on an annual basis, just to make sure the property is being used as it should be."