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Goshen shows what local funds can do

Posted on August 11, 2019

In December 2018, residents from Goshen Senior Housing crossed the street to join about 30 others at Town Hall for the Council on Aging holiday lunch. The celebration gave MHP a chance to ask questions about the new senior housing. “Before, it was just a lot with an abandoned parsonage,” said former selectman Don Boisvert after changing out of the Santa suit he had worn to liven up the festivities. “Now, we have residents who are engaged in the community.”

Developed by the Hilltown Community Development Corporation, the $2.5 million development features 10 affordable apartments. Located northwest of Northampton next to the Goshen Congregational Church, it’s an example of what small towns like Goshen – population 1,000 – can do when residents have local funds to back their ideas.

Boisvert traces the idea back 25 years to the late Marguerite Webb, a church member who was vocal about creating smaller homes for the elderly. The idea went nowhere but the seeds of progress were sown in 2008 when the town adopted the Community Preservation Act, which allows communities to impose a property tax surcharge and use the funds for open space, historic preservation or affordable housing. In 2010, Boisvert – no longer a selectman – got the board to OK an elder housing committee. “Volunteerism is difficult in small towns,” said Boisvert. “It goes a long way when you can go to selectmen and say, ‘here is an idea and the volunteers to make it happen.’”

Slowly but surely, Goshen Senior Housing was built. Voters OK’d $80,000 in CPA funds so that the elder housing committee could study and negotiate to buy the church site. Later, when Hilltown CDC applied for state funding, Goshen OK’d another $50,000 in CPA funds. 

MHP – a longtime lender to Hilltown CDC – provided a Project Eligibility Letter, which a developer needs to apply to the town for a Ch. 40B comprehensive permit. MHP also provided a $500,000 loan. “This had true community support and it’s why smaller projects have always been part of our DNA,” said MHP’s David Hanifin, the loan officer on this project. 

At the holiday lunch, residents said they were happy to be living in an apartment that was affordable, well-heated and didn’t have stairs. Frank and Nancy Kosior are one example. Married 58 years, they raised four children in their Williamsburg home. A few years ago, Nancy started to have trouble walking. Frank was worried to leave the house because he was afraid she’d fall. Meanwhile, money was getting tight. They were beginning to pay bills with credit cards. 

The new housing in Goshen presented an option, but it wasn’t a move they made easily. They were used to their 2,000-square foot home. Frank, a retired carpenter, had a place to keep all his tools, which Nancy calls his lifeblood. 

Reflecting back now, they can’t believe they hesitated. They like the location, have grown used to living in 700 square feet, and don’t miss having to stand next to the wood stove all winter to stay warm. “This place is easier on me and Nancy,” said Frank. “It’s the smartest move we ever made.” 

(This essay appeared in the recently published MHP annual report. If you would prefer to hold one in your hand and read other essays like this, or leave a copy in your office for others to read, email Rus Lodi and he'll mail you a few).