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Small town Goshen thinks big, shows what will and local money can do

Posted on September 28, 2018

GOSHEN --- In celebrating the grand opening of 10 affordable apartments for seniors, the Town of Goshen demonstrated what can be done when residents have initiative and local money they can use for housing.

That’s the point local resident Don Boisvert made when he stepped up to the microphone at opening ceremonies on Sept. 28. A member of the town’s Community Preservation and Senior Housing committees, Boisvert traced the genesis of Goshen Senior Housing back to 2008 when voters passed the Community Preservation Act, which allows communities to impose a surcharge on residents and then use the funds for open space, historic preservation or affordable housing.

Boisvert (pictured) told the audience of about 50 residents gathered at Town Hall that a short time after the town adopted CPA, the sentiment among the locals was “let’s get something going around senior housing.” He went onto explain that having CPA was key because you need money and “you can’t just have a notion.” Soon after, Town Meeting approved the use of CPA funds for housing. By 2010, the senior housing committee began looking for a site.

Eight years later, their desire to do something for their community became a reality. Ten senior households now have a safe, affordable place they can afford. “The Town of Goshen has set an example for rural America about how small communities can come together and do something to protect their way of life,” said Dave Christopolis, executive director of the Hilltown Community Development Corp., the regional nonprofit that developed the $2.5 million project. “There has been disinvestment in rural areas but coming together to work on projects like this is what can help put rural towns back on the map.”

Located about 10 miles northwest of Northampton as the crow flies, Goshen has a population of just over 1,000. The new housing was built on a site acquired by the Hilltown CDC from the Goshen Congregational Church thanks to an acquisition loan from the state’s Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC).  There are two four-family buildings on the property and one two-family home. They are located next to the Congregational Church and across the street from the Town Hall and senior center.

The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP) supported the effort by first providing Hilltown CDC with a Project Eligibility Letter, which a developer needs to apply to the town for a Ch. 40B comprehensive land use permit. Ch. 40B was needed in this case because the site was not zoned for multi-family. MHP also provided the project $500,000 in permanent financing from its $1.2 billion bank-funded loan pool, which has financed over 22,000 rental units across Massachusetts.

“This is a development that addresses the community’s need for senior affordable housing,” said David Hanifin, an MHP senior loan officer. “This was done thoughtfully because it had true community support.”

Granting Hilltown CDC the zoning to do the development wasn’t the only thing the Town of Goshen provided. The town also contributed $130,000 in CPA funds. Additional funding was provided by the state Department of Community Development (DHCD), and the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which is administered by MassHousing. People’s United Bank provided the construction loan and provided support for a subsidized advance award from the Federal Home Loan Bank. “All the lenders and state agencies went out of their way to understand our community and what we needed,” said Christopolis.

The result was housing that the town needs. At a luncheon and a tour of the housing after the speeches were done, all the residents we met told the same story: they were previously living in homes that were too big and/or in disrepair and they were happy to be living in an apartment that was safe, more affordable and on one level with no stairs.

Frank and Nancy Kosior are one example. Married for 58 years, they raised four children in their home in Williamsburg and lived there for 52 years. But as time wore on, Nancy started to have trouble walking and pretty soon Frank had to carry her up the stairs. They loved their home and didn’t want to leave, but now they know it was the right thing to do.

“It’s the smartest move I made,” said Frank, a local carpenter who gave his tools to his grandson when he moved up Route 9 from Williamsburg to Goshen. “This place is easier on Nancy and easier on me.”

They did mention rather matter-of-factly seeing a bear wander through their new backyard during the summer. When someone from the Boston area looked slightly alarmed, he was told that's why residents are advised not to put bird seed out, especially in the summer.

For more information about this development and MHP’s financing options for multi-family rental properties big and small, visit MHP's rental financing home page  or email MHP’s David Rockwell at drockwell@mhp.net or Nancy McCafferty at nmccafferty@mhp.net