GREAT BARRINGTON -- A report on the need for housing in Berkshire County singled out the towns of Great Barrington, Sheffield, and Stockbridge as having a severe shortage of affordable housing.

More than half of households in each of these towns are "rent-burdened," which means residents spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to preliminary findings from a report by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

The findings pertaining to Great Barrington were presented recently to members of the Planning Board at the request of town planner Chris Rembold.

"This means that over half of renters are already struggling to cover their housing costs and the possibility of home ownership is virtually unattainable," the report states.

There's a glaring need for additional rental units and homes in these areas, according to the report. Fifty-nine percent of Stockbridge households are rent-burdened. In Great Barrington, it's 57 percent.

At 60 percent, Sheffield is most in need of affordable housing, according to the report. The study incorporated only towns that volunteered to take part.

Regional Planning Commission senior planner Patricia Mullins recommended town officials position themselves for state and federal funding for affordable housing projects by completing housing needs studies and plans, Mullins said.

"The main idea is that there is funding [available] ... but you have to position yourselves," Mullins said.

According to a state ranking, Great Barrington is competitively positioned for government housing grants with a score of 33 out of 35. The score should make the town "very, very competitive for future grants," Mullins said.

In the last several decades, Great Barrington has increased its stock in housing. But available rentals have decreased, according to the report. The number of rental units have decreased from 1,139 in 2000 to about 1,054 at present, a decrease of 7.5 percent.

According to the report, the median price of a single-family home has tripled between 1990 and 2010 from $105,000 to $325,000. Rents have increased from $478 to $848 in the same time period.

The report was compiled with statistics from the 2010 U.S. Census, U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Revenue and other sources. Mullins said the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is continuing to collect data for the report. The full findings are expected to be released in August.

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