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!
Construct’s Communications Director Testifies at State House
From the Berkshire Eagle, 10.12.23
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.”
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
1Berkshire and Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Launch A Housing Vision for the Berkshires
1Berkshire, in partnership with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) and with support of a broad working group comprising housing practitioners from throughout Berkshire County, is excited to announce the launch of A Housing Vision for the Berkshires, a regional strategy intended to lead more intentional efforts to address the current housing crisis.
Housing was identified as a key cross-cutting theme in 2019’s Berkshire Blueprint 2.0, with large supply gaps identified for quality, affordable, and proximal housing for those seeking to live and work in the region. The impacts of the pandemic have accelerated the demand for housing and significantly driven up housing costs for both renters and homebuyers. In 2020, the working group began convening, including dozens of additional regional partners and housing practitioners aspiring to capture data, identify challenges and opportunities, and provide outreach to additional groups of community stakeholders throughout Berkshire County.
A Housing Vision for the Berkshires is the first product to come out of this work, and is intended to act as a phase one to begin addressing systemic challenges in housing development. The report itself features over 60 recommended strategies to help catalyze more development, while expanding representation in the process to include more diverse communities and populations that have lived experiences but who have not historically been properly engaged in the process of identifying solutions to housing challenges. “Through the implementation of these strategies, we hope housing options will become more readily available and affordable for all, including populations under the greatest current pressure”, stated Tom Matuszko, Executive Director of BRPC.
Recognizing that a report itself is not enough to compel sustained action, the coalition will continue to collaborate and work towards a more permanent model, the group has also secured $150,000 in ARPA funding from the Berkshire Legislative Delegation to support continued work and follow through in the coming years. Jonathan Butler, 1Berkshire President & CEO notes “This has been an important initial process to work through, but it’s critical that there is a system in place for continued advocacy and implementation of action steps. Thanks to our leaders in the Berkshire Delegation, organizations like BRPC and Berkshire Housing Development Corporation will be able to provide much of that needed capacity.”
1Berkshire is a county-wide organization focused on economic development and promotion of the region as a preferred place to visit, to live, and to grow a business. It provides programs that connect businesses with each other and with potential customers and works to develop future leaders and support entrepreneurs. For more information, visit 1Berkshire.com.
About Berkshire Regional Planning Commission
Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is the regional planning agency for Berkshire County, Massachusetts. BRPC assists the thirty-two Berkshire cities and towns in a diverse set of topics including community and economic development, community planning, data and information services, emergency preparedness planning, environmental and energy planning, regional services, public health and transportation planning. BRPC promotes regional collaboration among communities and works to increase coordination between all levels of government.