Alden property

The open patch of land surrounded by residential housing in the vicinity of North Plain Road and Wyantenuck Street was purchased by the town of Great Barrington last year for affordable housing.

GREAT BARRINGTON — Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity wants to build a cluster of up to 20 homes on a sliver of town-owned land off Route 41 in Housatonic.

The project would create the town’s first homes designated as affordable — nearly half of the units would be reserved for households making 80 percent or less of the area’s median income.

The town acquired the 7.5-acre parcel, known as the Alden property, last year for $175,000, and entrusted its development to the Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Fund. The Habitat proposal was the only one submitted for the site.

The formal vetting of the plan got underway Friday, when the board heard details about the plan via Zoom. Habitat is proposing 14 to 20 homes at varying costs, to be built in phases, said Carolyn Valli, Habitat’s CEO. It would begin with seven homes, and more would be added gradually, in collaboration with Construct Inc. and the community.

Bill Cooke, chairman of the board of the housing trust, said the proposal still must move through the usual course of permitting, which includes public hearings, and that elements of the proposal could change. He said the board would vote on the proposal at its next meeting, on Jan. 6.

But, the project will not exceed 20 units, he said, speaking to some initial fears of area residents of a busy development at the site. The parcel is surrounded by 21 existing homes.

“We listened to the neighbors,” he said. “They’re basically the same types of houses that would already exist in the neighborhood.”

Habitat also listened, working out its proposal after meeting with residents, Valli said.

Also, the nonprofit plans a green buffer between old and new development in the neighborhood.

The town, using Community Preservation Act money, bought the lot with a plan to apply for a MassWorks grant to pay for water and sewer line attachments, estimated at about $700,000.

Town officials said it would be hard to find a better and cheaper lot for an affordable housing project in a town that desperately needs it.

The median sales price of a home in town has jumped from $339,000 to $469,000 since last year, according to a recent Berkshire County Board of Realtors report. And Valli said the town’s housing study indicates that 100 percent of the town’s renters can’t afford to live in Great Barrington.

While new affordable rentals are springing up in town, there hasn’t yet been a focus on homeownership, Cooke said. And Valli said that residents said they wanted a development where people could buy so that they stay in the community.

“So that people who work in the town can afford to live there,” she said.

And it is an opportunity to own a home through Habitat’s program of sweat equity, and in which new homeowners learn all aspects of ownership, including budgeting.

“We build with, not for,” said said. “This will really be a village that is built together.”

The homes also will be energy efficient, and “the style of the buildings will be based on the neighborhood style in Housatonic, an eclectic mix from bungalows to ranch houses that are in accord with [the organization’s] vision of simple, decent homes,” according to the proposal.

Most will have three bedrooms, but there will be a variety of sizes in what eventually could be 10 to 16 buildings, since some will be multifamily units.

“It will be a nice little mix,” Cooke said.

Heather Bellow can be reached at or

413-329-6871. On Twitter @BE_hbellow.