A MA Select Board Member Lobbies For Affordable Housing
The issue of affordable housing throughout Massachusetts remains a hot-button topic as a $4 billion housing bond bill is passing through the legislature in support of Governor Healey's Affordable Homes Act which includes amendments.
Last week, Great Barrington Select Board Vice Chair and Construct Communications Director, Leigh Davis headed east to Boston as she testified before The Joint Committee on Housing at Beacon Hill as she wanted to assure state funding and policy proposals DO NOT bypass the areas that are represented in south county. She stated the bill is a "once-in-a generation" opportunity to build an equitable, affordable and sustainable Commonwealth.
Davis emphasized the importance of Great Barrington as "the hub" of southern Berkshire county, a "tourism-driven region" with cultural assets including Tanglewood in Lenox, Jacob's Pillow in neighboring Becket and Stockbridge's Norman Rockwell Museum. Smithsonian Magazine voted Great Barrington as "The Best Massachusetts Small Town".
The town's economic future is hanging by a thread as she stated there is not enough affordable to sustain surrounding neighboring communities, but many cannot afford to call Great Barrington home due to skyrocketing rent and housing prices.
Small and large businesses cannot even staff service positions. Even Fairview Hospital is struggling to house potential workers as many "locally based" jobs are left unfilled. Statistic show the average south county worker who makes $15 per hour (the state minimum wage) needs to put in 80 hours a week to afford a one bedroom apartment in our vicinity. If they require two bedrooms, the total balloons up to 141 hours as Great Barrington is also at a 0% rental vacancy rate. These numbers are staggering in nature!
Between 2015 and 2020, Great Barrington saw an incredible 67% increase in second and third home properties, but Davis feels this is dragging the local economy in a downward spiral with essential workers feeling like they are on the outside looking in. The town is using various resources to increase their stock on affordable housing which includes passage of a short-term rental bylaw.
Davis urged legislators to build flexibility into the local option Real Estate Transfer Fee to recognize the diverse needs of communities and meet local conditions and needs.
The Local Option For Housing Affordability Coalition, and key advocacy partners including our county wide Housing Coalition and Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness have also shown support for her efforts to implement this measure. We will continue to keep an eye on this developing story as the situation warrants.
(Some information obtained in this article courtesy of the transcript provided by Great Barrington Select Board Vice Chair, Leigh Davis during her testimony in Boston on January 18th 2024)
(Photo images from Beacon Hill in Boston officially approved by Leigh Davis with her exclusive permission to be featured in this aforementioned article)