To the editor: Recently, I sat on my living room floor reading to my 2-year-old son, while a parade of strangers stomped around my attic making plans to renovate the apartment that I’ve rented on East Street in Great Barrington for the past nine years.
One woman was somewhat apologetic, the Realtor made awkward small talk and two other individuals seemed scarcely interested in making eye contact as they took measurements and pondered renovation strategies. I have no idea whether they will purchase the house or whether my family of three will be evicted before the end of winter.
This is a snapshot of the affordable housing and rental crisis in our town. I am a self-employed teacher with a master’s and my husband is a self-employed local who grew up in Stockbridge. We cannot afford to continue living in Great Barrington and will be lucky if can find an affordable house to rent or purchase in a neighboring town.
There are many more like me: An undercurrent of low- and middle-income folk who are not being heard or supported. We are teachers, farmers, veterans, therapists, artists and parents. We are often quiet because we are working to make ends meet and are overwhelmed by a system that has left us with nowhere to go.
Perhaps the sob stories of wealthy homeowners have lulled the housing subcommittee into believing that regulating their passive income would be detrimental to their lives. Fear of eviction is a different kind of stress than whether one can take a second vacation.
This is where the town comes in. My rental on “The other Hill” is an excellent example of a two-unit home that the Housing Trust could purchase, renovate and subsidize to maintain two affordable downtown apartments. Regardless of the fate of this particular house, I implore the citizens of this town to pass the proposed bylaw at the town meeting in May.
I understand that there is revenue to be gained from short-term rentals, but let’s face it, the Berkshires are not going to slow in popularity any time soon. Leave the hotels and B&Bs for the tourists and please consider this reality: There are working-class people in your town who are worthy of affordable places to reside. We are your friends and neighbors. Give us our rentals back.
Kristin Grippo, Great Barrington