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Great Barrington is MHP Housing Hero

Posted on June 12, 2019

(Since 2011, MHP's Housing Institute holds an awards luncheon on its second day and recognizes communities and individuals for their efforts to create affordable housing. On June 6, 2019, the Town of Great Barrington was one of four to receive an MHP Housing Hero Award. Presenting the award was Tim McGourthy, deputy undersecretary for the state's Executive Office for Housing and Economic Development. Here are his remarks.)

We are recognizing the Town of Great Barrington this year because it has distinguished itself as one of Western Massachusetts’ most active towns when it comes to providing land, zoning and funding for affordable housing. 

Just ask Tim Geller, the longtime executive director of the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire. Geller said: “It’s a town government that’s fully committed to affordable housing. In terms of a partner, it doesn’t get any better than Great Barrington.”

Geller traces Great Barrington’s awareness to the 1990s when a group called the Southern Berkshire Housing Coalition did outreach to gauge resident attitudes on housing. That’s when everyone started to realize that there were a lot of seniors who were struggling to stay in their homes. Young families were moving away. Second home buyers from metro Boston and New York were making it impossible for year-rounders to buy. Geller said that’s when Great Barrington began to get religion on affordable housing. 

The breakthrough with voters came in 2007 when Town Meeting voted to donate 3 acres of land and provide $80,000 to support 10 units of affordable housing.  Since then, Great Barrington has never stopped. For example: 

  • In 2012, it approved the Community Preservation Act. Since then has used 36 percent of its CPA funds have been used for affordable housing.
  • In 2013, it adopted a master plan in which affordable housing was a big component. 
  • In 2016, it approved $220,000 in CPA funds to support 11 affordable units at a development called Forest Springs. 
  • In 2017, voters approved two new Chapter 40R zoning districts to promote housing near its downtown. 
  • In 2015 and 2016, voters OK’d a total of $750,000 in CPA funds to support the redevelopment of a downtown brownfield site into 45 affordable apartments that will have access to walking trails along the Housatonic River.
  •  In 2018, the town also OK’d permits, plus up to $450,000 in CPA funds, for 910 Main Street, which will put 49 mixed-income apartments within walking distance of downtown.

These are some of the reasons why Great Barrington is an MHP Housing Hero. Here to accept the award is Town Planner Chris Rembold.

Read about the other 2019 MHP Housing Heroes

Keith Bergman

City of Salem

DHCD's Phil DeMartino