Better housing for better county

Wednesday November 14, 2012

The new housing initiative an nounced Tuesday by Governor Pat rick should help address a roadblock to economic development in Pitts field and Berkshire County -- a lack of affordable housing.

At the "Under One Roof" housing and community development conference Tues day, the governor outlined the Com pact Neighborhoods program, which is de signed to produce 10,000 multi-family housing units across the state. Incentives will be provided to build these houses in town and city centers and near mass transit. The MassWorks Infrastructure Pro gram and other programs on the books like Chapter 40B will provide funding.

If Pittsfield and Berkshire communities are to keep employers and attract new ones, the county’s existing housing stock must be upgraded and new homes added to make communities more appealing to employees. Compact Neighborhoods is also designed to provide funds for the improvement of 46,000 units of public housing throughout the state. By encouraging communities to build new housing units in centers with access to buses, the state will help revive neighborhoods and cut down on the sprawl that afflicts the state and would do considerable harm to the aesthetic appeal of the Berkshires.

Pittsfield has been addressing its affordable housing shortage for some time, and the city made significant strides last month with the official completion of the Rice Silk Mill project transforming the building into 45 units of affordable housing. At that time, the governor announced approval of the first Housing Develop ment Incentive Program (HDIP) district and planned project, Pittsfield’s Onota-Howard project for 39 units of housing and 10 units of retail development. Pittsfield was the first community to apply for an HDIP program and project through the Gateway Cities initiative, which offers incentives to developers in the form of state tax credits and real estate tax exemptions.

Public-private partnerships have been critical to the revival of downtown Pitts field and will play a major role in increasing the city’s affordable housing stock, to the benefit of residents and newcomers. The Compact Neighborhoods initiative should do the same, in the city and elsewhere in the Berkshires.


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