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Landlord’s Corner

If you are familiar with the Lenox town center loop, you most likely have seen Andrea Bruce walking it. Or, maybe, even caught her paintings on display at a local gallery. Having called Lenox home for the past half-century, Andrea has undeniably carved out her niche within the community. However, what many may not realize is that Andrea also wears the hat of a. seasoned local landlord. Construct delved into Andrea’s experiences to uncover the realities of being a small scale landlord in south Berkshire County.

Q: What is the hardest thing about being a landlord?

A: The hardest aspect for me is maintaining a reliable income from the property to cover my mortgage. While some tenants are fantastic, taking care of the space and paying rent punctually, others can be challenging. As my lawyer once told me, “tenants have all the rights,” which can make certain situations very difficult. Nonetheless, I’ve found that most people are wonderful, and I’ve even forged lasting friendships through my landlord-tenant relationships.

Q: Do you have other sources of income?

A: Yes, I receive Social Security, and I also operate a small one-room Airbnb from my home. I’m an artist. These additional sources of income contribute significantly to my ability to sustain myself financially as a single, retired woman.

Q: What trends in renting have you noticed over the past few years?

A: There has been a notable influx of people moving into Berkshire County, and developers have capitalized on this trend. Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed friends being displaced from their long-term apartments due to buildings being purchased by investors who subsequently raise rents or convert the spaces into Airbnb.

Q: Do you feel that your decision to keep rents reasonable has encouraged good renters to stay long-term?

A: Absolutely. I deliberately keep the rent on the lower side because I don’t believe in overcharging tenants. This approach has attracted many exceptional individuals over the years who have become long-term renters. Ultimately, my goal is to continue living comfortably in my house while treating my tenants fairly. I’m going on 30 years now, so I must be doing something right!

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Fair Housing Training

Fair Housing Training

Join us for a FAIR HOUSING TRAINING on May 17th presented by Ellen T. Maxon, JD.

Throughout her career, Ellen T. Maxon, Retired Civil Rights Investigator & Vermont Human Rights Commission, has investigated allegations of discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment. She continues to provide fair housing and implicit bias training.

Please join us:

Friday, May 17th
11:30 am-1:30 pm


Construct Center for Affordable Housing
316 State Road, Great Barrington, MA

Feel free to bring a bag lunch.

Space is limited to 15 participants. There will be a waitlist and additional opportunities for this training depending on interest.

RSVP: drueger@constructberkshire.org

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Racebrook Lodge Event

Cocktails and Conversations: October 25, 2023

To those who attended “Cocktails and Conversations” at Racebrook Lodge (and those unable to make it) – WOW! What a night!

Over 60 people attended the gathering, sharing stories of how housing instability has impacted them and offering ideas on addressing the crisis. Because of the success of last night, we plan to do more community gatherings such as these.

But in the meantime, we ask that you remain active and engaged! Remember: Housing is the single best investment we can make for the future of our communities

If you’d like to volunteer for Construct or join one of our committees – let us know. And as always, we welcome and are grateful for your donations – it takes a village!

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Construct’s Communications Director Testifies at State House

From the Berkshire Eagle, 10.12.23

Leigh Davis, State House

Leigh Davis testified on October 11th at the State House about the lack of available and affordable housing in the Berkshires, and a proposal for a real estate transfer fee that would provide a critical tool for municipalities to help fund affordable housing initiatives.

“ Davis, who also works for a nonprofit (Construct) that creates affordable housing, told the Joint Committee on Revenue that Great Barrington’s housing is locked up. She said second homeowners are “pushing residents out”; and that all-cash home sales made up about half of all sales in 2022. There aren’t any available motel rooms for shelter, either, she added.

“We’re doing as much as we can but we just lack the resources,” Davis said. “The struggle is real.”

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Doug Mishkin Benefit Concert for Construct

Join us for this April 15th concert at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire. All proceeds for this concert will benefit Construct and the Religious Action Center of Massachusetts.

Doug Mishkin is a longtime singer-songwriter in the Jewish community best known for his folk anthem “Woody’s Children.”

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Watch Warm Up the Winter Concert Highlights

Construct’s 2023 Warm Up the Winter fundraiser was held Thursday March 2, 2023 at Egremont Barn. The concert was a huge success, as was the campaign, which has thus far raised over $90,000 to help in-need Berkshire residents with fuel cost issues they face during the winter months.

Lauren Ambrose and Gary Happ served as MCs for the evening. We’ve got some incredible video highlights below — enjoy and see you next year!

Berkshire Children’s Chorus featuring Wanda Houston (Warm Up the Winter Theme Song)

Berkshire Children’s Chorus

Billy Keane (of Whiskey Treaty Roadshow)

Wanda Houston Band “Look of Love”

Misty Blues (with an introduction by MC Lauren Ambrose)

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Warm Up the Winter 2023 Benefit Concert

Construct’s 2023 Warm Up the Winter fundraiser was held Thursday March 2, 2023 at Egremont Barn in the Berkshires. The concert was an enormous success, as was the campaign, which has thus far raised nearly $90,000 to help our neighbors.

Lauren Ambrose and Gary Happ emcee’d the fun-filled annual benefit concert with the the Berkshire Children’s Chorus, the Wanda Houston Band, Billy Keane, Hot Sauce, and Misty Blues.

Watch the concert in full here:

The Bands

Berkshire Children’s Chorus explores the globe and travels through time by singing music from various cultures and eras. The Chorus uses music to spark new friendships between singers from across the Berkshire region. Weekly rehearsals feature the development of individual self-confidence and teamwork skills, as well as music reading, ear training, and vocal technique.

Wanda Houston Band is a dynamic quartet specializing in the music of the ’30s through ’70s with a blend of rhythm, blues, jazz, and soul. The band is: Wanda Houston, Vocals, Jeff Stevens, Trumpet & Vocals, Rob Kelly, Keyboard & Vocals, Jay Bradley, Drums

Billy Keane’s sound is a blending of neo folk/Americana with indie rock and country and is inspired by his life, his listening, his belief that to be human means to experience the universe, our world and its people, and to reflect all that back upon itself through artistic expression. 

Hot Sauce is Tom Major – drums, Benny Kohn – keyboards and vocals, Miles Lally – bass and Steve Ide – guitar and vocals. They play Bluesy, Jazzy, Funky R&B dance music covering artists like Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, The Meters, John Scofield, Little Feat, Frequent Flyers and more.

2019 International Blues Challenge finalist, Misty Blues, is led by lead singer/band founder Gina Coleman. The band plays original and traditional blues with hints of jazz, soul, funk and tent revival gospel since 1999. Misty Blues performs extensively throughout New England and has been nominated for several Independent Blues Music Awards.

The Campaign

Construct’s annual Warm Up the Winter benefit concert is a key experience in the 6 week long campaign: Warm Up the Winter Fuel Crisis 2023. The campaign focuses specifically on the issues Berkshire residents face during the winter months by helping homeless, low income, and middle income Berkshire residents, including professionals—cope with the after-affects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Inflation, the deepening housing crisis and exponentially rising fuel costs are hitting everyone hard. 

“Warm Up the Winter has become a core fundraiser for us,” stated Jane Ralph, Construct’s Executive Director. “Winter creates serious challenges for many Berkshire households. More and more people are looking at their bills and deciding between heat, medicine, and food, choices no one should ever have to make. This campaign directly assists households facing these choices.”

Thanks To

Underwriters for the campaign include the Gilson Family Foundation, the Jewish Women’s Foundation, Theory Wellness, The Schnesel Family Fund, Judi and Alan Marash, and Eric and Laura Jordahl.


Donations can be made by texting: ‘Warmth’ to 855-202-2100 or writing a check to Construct, Inc., Mail to: 316A State Road, Great Barrington, MA 01230

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Opinion Piece in Berkshire Eagle Calls Windflower “Unique Prototype”

Our Opinion: A workforce housing project in Great Barrington is a unique prototype to keep our eyes on

It’s a problem we hear from so many Berkshire business-owners: In communities that are heavy on service-sector jobs but light on housing that workers can afford, attracting a sustainable workforce is a tall order. Sticky problems like this one often require thinking outside the box to find workable solutions, which is why a unique housing project in Great Barrington has caught our eye.

The 20 rooms at the Windflower Inn will become workforce housing for those with “moderate income levels,” with some reserved for low-income tenants. It’s a new way to think about housing.

The plan to convert the Windflower Inn into workforce-targeted residential units was certainly an exercise in outside-the-box thinking for its proponents…

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Construct Helps Family Buy First Home

First Home Buyers, Berkshires

Through the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative Receivership Fund (AHIR), which incentivizes the conversion of blighted properties into affordable housing units, Construct was designated a court appointed receiver. With this appointment, Construct created the first affordable housing unit in Becket by rehabilitating a long-abandoned 3-bedroom property in town. Situated on 2.9 acres, the property has easy access to many ideal amenities for a first time home buyer. With help from a $100,000 loan from the AHIR, Construct rehabilitated the blighted property and then offered it for sale by lottery to individuals whose income is 80% or less of the area’s median. A deed restriction ensures the home will always remain affordable.

Shasta Bona, a Great Barrington social worker, was the lucky lottery winner. “This has saved my family from homelessness. Our future looked very grim when we were evicted from our apartment. All apartment opportunities were uninhabitable, too expensive, or out of our daughter’s school district. We had begun looking into long-term stays at local motels when I learned about this opportunity. I still cannot believe we made it to the finish line, but we did! Thank you, Construct!”

Construct continues to identify other abandoned properties throughout the southern Berkshires, with two more projects already underway.

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For 52 years, Construct’s mission has been simple: to provide affordable housing to strengthen and diversify communities, stabilize lives, and empower individuals to build a better future. Our newsletters help us build bonds by letting our community know about our latest endeavors, undertakings, and all the good people who participate.


In this issue:

  • Homegrown Solutions
  • 2024 Designer Showhouse
  • Donor Spotlight
  • Landlord’s Corner


In this issue:

  • Yes, In Our Backyard 
  • Renter’s Corner
  • Test Your Knowledge
  • Supporter Spotlight

FALL 2022

In this issue:

  • The Brick Campaign 
  • Becket House Lottery 
  • Center for Affordable Housing Update
  • Windflower Inn Acquisition

FALL 2021

In this issue:

  • Steps Towards Steward Solutions
  • Meet Your Neighbor: Karen Lewis
  • Client Spotlight: Kevin
  • Supporter Spotlight: Wanda Houston

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