Letter: Affordable housing success, but work to be done


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

There is much to be thankful for currently in Williamstown relating to affordable housing! Just a few weeks ago, the assistant secretary for
the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Aaron Gornstein, was in town to celebrate basic state funding for the 40-unit Highland Woods project to be built on land donated by Williams College. All of the Highland Woods units will serve seniors with moderate or low incomes.

Fortunately, the remarkable, rapid funding and development of this project, is expected to be completed in time to serve as new homes for some of the people from the Spruces who want to stay in Williamstown.

In addition, it looks like the long-awaited Cable Mills project, which will include 13 affordable housing units, is expected to break ground sometime this fall. These 13 units will be part of the first phase of the development, and will be available to people with incomes below 80 percent of HUD’s Area Median Income.

The development of the Photec site on Cole Avenue is also waiting in the wings. Town Manager Peter Fohlin will be negotiating the basic agreements with the Women’s Institute for Housing and Community Development and Berkshire Housing and Development Corp. to get this much-needed project initiated. It is expected that this site will provide about 46 additional affordable housing units, which will be primarily available for families, but may serve seniors as well.

Therefore, the 99 additional units of affordable housing to be built over the next few years will dramatically increase the town’s current affordable housing stock of 147 units -- a wonderful accomplishment that reflects many years of hard work by so many.

To add to this mix of successes, the town’s Affordable Housing Trust is also in the process of launching a new mortgage assistance program, which works through local banks to assist families with moderate incomes to purchase existing houses in Williamstown.

Given complexity and cost of the projects, however, no one knows for sure just when all of these new units will be ready for occupancy, how quickly they will be filled, or exactly who will be served. But the need for affordable housing in Williamstown, with its high cost of living and aging population, is not going to go away.

Fortunately, we now have time to reassess future housing needs, look at new, innovative ways of addressing those needs, especially for seniors, and to develop a meaningful housing plan in the context of the ongoing work of other town committees. Those interested in learning about or working on these issues, as well as helping Williamstown address its future housing needs, should get involved. You can start by contacting the Affordable Housing Committee. We would welcome the opportunity to talk with you!



The writer is interim chair Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee.


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