Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity seeks to build sustainable energy homes

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PITTSFIELD >> Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity has embarked on a $1 million affordable housing project that could lead to zero energy costs for the homeowners.

The nonprofit plans to build three duplexes at the corner of Gordon and Deming streets with each of the six units powered by solar energy, with ground breaking likely early next spring, Habitat officials announced on Sunday.

"It makes sense from all angles ... as doing three duplexes on this site works," said Chris Moon, newly elected chairman of Habitat's board of directors.

Moon and Habitat Executive Director Carolyn Valli outlined the project's particulars during the housing organization's annual meeting held at the well kept vacant lot. Once Habitat secures all city permits, Valli told The Eagle construction could begin early next spring, relying on a plethora of volunteers — the backbone of the agency.

"This is ground-breaking work for us to do [almost] zero energy housing and it has some people volunteering that haven't worked for us before," she said.

Central Berkshire Habitat's most ambitious project to date with be funded through a capital campaign jump-started by an anonymous donor. The owner of a Pittsfield home valued at $695,000 has donated the single family residence to Habitat that is selling the property for $475,000 and using the proceeds to fund the solar energy affordable housing project.

In addition, the Gordon Street lot was a donation and architect Rona Easton of Monterey is waiving her fees and costs of designing the three duplexes, according to Habitat officials.

"To be successful as an organization you have to have volunteers, a dedicated staff and regular donors, but in-kind donations of all kinds are important to that partnership," said Lou Coelho, past board chairman and veteran Habitat volunteer.

Coehlo and Moon are amazed the project has generated such generosity that they hope continues.

"[Those contribution] will help us leverage other donations," Moon said.

Founded in 1993, Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity has built anew or renovated nearly 30 homes in the Pittsfield area, sold to families or individuals, who purchase the home with a mortgage less than 30 percent of their gross earning. Habitat homebuyers are also expected to work on the home of their dreams, often going above and beyond what's required of them.

In the case of the Gordon-Deming streets project, the six units will be Affordable condominiums, Habitat officials said.

"There will be a condominium association so the mowing and upkeep of the stie will be shared by the tenants," Moon said.

Habitat officials are working closely with city officials to fine-tune the proposal and hope to secure funding for the solar panels with the help of Sen. Benjamin B. Downing and Pittsfield's state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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