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Renters, Know Your Rights

from Connections, Summer 2023 newsletter

If you are facing eviction, you do not have to move out just because your landlord told you to, sent you a notice to quit, or sent you a Summary Process Summons and Complaint. You only have to move out if the court orders you to move out.

Affordable Housing Great Barrington
Affordable housing Great Barrington

If your landlord wants you to move out, they must:

If served with court papers called the Summons and Complaint:

The Summons and Complaint will tell you:

If you have bad conditions in your home:

Questions about renter’s rights?

Email Kate at kcoulehan@constructberkshire.org

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Massachusetts Subsidized Housing Inventory

September 5, 2023

Southern Berkshires Affordable Housing

Massachusetts requires every town in the state to have 10% Affordable Housing. The SHI lists every town in Massachusetts along with their percentage of affordable housing.

Congratulations to Great Barrington for crossing the 10% threshold! Williamstown also made a marginal increase. And Becket finally got on the scoreboard because of Construct’s work.  

That’s the only good news. Several of our towns, including Lenox, Lee, Sheffield, Williamstown and Stockbridge decreased their Affordable Housing Inventory.

Many of our towns stayed at 0% affordable housing.

There are 32 towns and cities within Berkshire County — 16 of them have no affordable housing.  

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Renters’ Corner

from Connections, Summer 2023 newsletter

Since July 2022, Construct has contributed over $125,000 to provide community members with rental assistance.

Construct’s permanent housing locations have provided safe and affordable shelter for hundreds of people, but the waitlist is long and slow-moving. There are currently 462 households waiting, and the list grows by the day. Creating new permanent affordable housing will always be at the heart of Construct’s mission, however the need for stabilizing services such as rental assistance, are becoming increasingly necessary in order for households to retain their housing. Currently, 46% of all renters in Great Barrington (where Construct offices are located) are considered cost burdened, meaning they are exceeding the 30% annual income spending cap recommended by most financial institutions.

The goal of our Rental Assistance Program is not simply to cover a month’s rent, but to help families work towards sustainability and long term housing security. Due to the lack of housing in the area, this is essential. If rental payments are missed and a family loses their housing, it is nearly impossible to find housing elsewhere.

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Yes In Our Backyard!

from Connections, Summer 2023 Newsletter

In the past year, Construct has seen the southern Berkshires take leaps of faith from “Not in My Backyard” to proclaiming “Yes in OUR Backyard!”

NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) is the acronym that describes the sense that while affordable housing is needed, many don’t want it in their community. Many reasons for this are based on negative misperceptions of what happens when affordable housing occurs in a neighborhood.

Great Barrington and New Marlborough residents have seized the moment and supported the Windflower Inn and Cassillis Farm being converted to workforce affordable housing. In both cases, opportunities arose that required a quick response. While Construct is nimble enough for that, we don’t have deep pockets.

Cassilis Farm, a Gilded Age estate in New Marlborough, was purchased at auction with over 90% of the acquisition funds raised by residents. Residents have continued active participation through the special permitting process, and over 60 neighbors toured the estate and voiced support in May. Offering guidance and narrating Cassillis’s storied past, neighbors enthusiastically said, “Yes in OUR Backyard!”


Promoting affordable workforce housing is also a concerted effort at The Windflower, with backyards abutting Egremont, Great Barrington, and Sheffield. Greylock Federal Credit Union provided favorable financing, the Town of Great Barrington provided ARPA funds, and private donations flowed from across Berkshire County. Because Windflower was funded privately, Construct accepted its first occupants within a month of closing on December 1st, 2022, and was able to safeguard the homes of the two existing cottage residents.

Banding together, we can overcome the housing crisis while enhancing one another’s lives. That’s what it means to be good neighbors. That’s what “Yes in OUR Backyard“ means. Thank you in advance for continuing to take these leaps of faith.

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It Takes a Village

The Berkshire County Summit for Housing & Food Insecurity—Sept. 22 in Lenox

Due to the housing crisis in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Governor Healey has declared a state of emergency to spotlight the issue and to begin working immediately to solve the problem.

The Berkshire County Summit for Housing & Food Insecurity, organized by Representative Smitty Pignatelli, will take place Friday, September 22nd in the Lenox Town Hall Auditorium. 

Please join us to learn how to help families during this housing insecurity crisis.

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How Much Does the Average Renter Need to Make To Live Comfortably In the Berkshires?

— Berkshire Eagle

“According to a new study, the answer is $27 if you live in Pittsfield, well above the state’s minimum wage of $15. That’s a problem, housing advocates say, as wages aren’t keeping pace with the cost of housing in the area.

The study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, titled “Out of Reach,” shows the hourly wages that residents of various communities must make to afford a modest, one- or two-bedroom apartment without spending more than 30 percent of their total income on rent and utilities. The hourly wage needed for a two-bedroom apartment in Pittsfield comes out to $27.12.”

“As rates have gone up, people have gotten priced out of local housing markets, said Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire. The problem crosses several income brackets in the county, affecting young families looking to get their first home or upgrade as well as those making minimum wage.”

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“Final Mile” Closing Cost Grant of $2,500 for Buyers in South Berkshire County

— Spectrum News 1

“Construct Inc. has announced a “final mile” closing cost grant of $2,500 for buyers in south Berkshire County, which includes 18 towns.

There are 36 available grants, according to Construct Inc. housing navigator Kate Coulehan. Applicant eligibility is based on area median income and the town of the home they are purchasing.”

“The criteria for eligibility is that you must make only up to 100% AMI, so you could be coming from out of state or in-state,” Coulehan said. “You know, we’re very mindful that the Berkshires have been very expensive for a very long time and Construct was actually founded in 1969, so we’ve developed according to the needs of the community over the decades.”

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Protect Yourself in an Eviction

Massachusetts Legal Aid has compiled 15 booklets to help MA residents facing foreclosure or eviction. The booklets have practical information about the steps one must take to protect your rights.

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. If you cannot get a lawyer from your local legal aid program, call your local bar association and ask for their lawyer referral program.

Eviction Notice

A lawyer can: 

A. Give you advice that fits your situation. 

B. Fill out and file court papers for you. 

C. Represent you and go to court with you. 

D. Speak with the judge and your landlord or your landlord’s lawyer. 

Some Housing Courts have Lawyer for the Day Programs. 

Protect yourself!

Read the booklet “Protecting Yourself in an Eviction” and follow the steps outlined within. And, remember, Construct is here to help you with any questions.

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Announcing First-Time Homebuyers Closing Cost Grant

May 12, 2023

Great Barrington, Mass. – Construct has announced a “final mile” closing cost grant of $2,500 available to low-to-moderate-income south Berkshire County residents to help create access to home ownership.

Massachusetts State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli successfully introduced an amendment to the Massachusetts American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in the Fiscal 2023 Budget, appropriating $100,000 for a Berkshire County first-time home buyers’ program. Working with area mortgage brokers, Construct administers the funds to provide eligible candidates with “final mile grants” for closing expenses. Berkshire County residents who have already been approved through their financial institution and earn up to 100% of AMI will be eligible.

“I’m a firm believer that creating a path to homeownership is the most effective way for people to build equity,” said Pignatelli. “We want people to be able to live in the Berkshires, establish roots here, work, and raise their families. I hope these ARPA funds will help Construct continue and grow their great work in our community.”

Applicant’s eligibility is based on Area Median Income (AMI) and the town of the home they are purchasing. This program is available to the towns of Alford, Becket, Dalton, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlborough, Otis, Richmond, Sandisfield, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham, Washington, and West Stockbridge.

Income-eligible applicants are invited to contact mortgage officers for applications at the following banks: Lee Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Adams Community Bank, Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, and Berkshire Bank.

General questions about the closing cost grant can be directed to Construct Housing Navigator Kate Coulehan at kcoulehan@constructberkshire.org.

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Building a Housing Justice Movement

— 250 Strong Showed Up for Housing Justice in Western Massachusetts

On Friday May 12th, Leigh Davis, Construct’s Communications and Community Engagement Director, joined 250 Western Massachusetts community members to focus on ending homelessness and housing insecurity in our region. 

The event, at Holyoke Community College, was attended by senators, representatives, legislators and mayors, as well as “dozens and dozens of Network partners who showed up to feel the power of our community and to demonstrate that we are building a housing justice movement that will make the change happen.”

Participants discussed the subject of homelessness in the region. They learned about real solutions to the issue and were inspired by all of the attendees “who know what it means to live and do this work for housing justice.”

Leigh Davis said, “Convening with so many like-minded partners in the housing justice movement and hearing words of commitment from many of our state and local officials was inspirational, deepening Construct’s role in housing advocacy and providing us with a critical seat at the table.”

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