In response to a Request for Proposals from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Habitat for Humanity has been selected to develop the property on North Plain Road in Housatonic. Here is their proposal.

Housatonic Homeownership Development

Working together we make a difference 

 

The Housatonic Homeownership  Development is a mixed income, family-centric, inclusive neighborhood of 14-20 simple, decent, affordable houses in 10-16 buildings. The households we serve are diverse and dynamic; our homes are too. 

Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity builds for families and individuals, for joint households and multi-generational households, for flexible households and homes that often welcome additional friends and family. The better we can build accommodation and flexibility into the design, the better we serve those households. Mission-Aligned Design is all about balancing decent and affordable. It’s about balancing high-performance systems, pride of ownership, and the ability to adapt and improve strong base designs into what best fits future households.

The maximum number of units practical for the site has been determined by (a) the residential neighborhood context, (b) site constraints, (c) estimated market and absorption capacity and (d) financial feasibility.

Site and Building Design 

Habitat strongly believes in infill development that matches the density and the character of the surrounding neighborhood.  Therefore, Habitat intends to limit the development to 14, with no more than 20 affordable homes clustered toward the central part of the lot. Some of the units will be freestanding and others will be built in a townhouse style, contributing to the cluster effect and adding diversity to the building style.  This will also facilitate a buffer of green space between the new development and the original.  

The style of the buildings will be based on the neighborhood style in Housatonic, an eclectic mix from bungalows to Ranch houses that are in accord with CBHFH’s vision of simple, decent homes. 

The approach to the site will be from a new curb cut, closer to the west boundary line. (See site plan draft). This will simplify the intersection of Main Street and Route 41 and improve visibility of the entrance from the West.  It will also prevent glare from outgoing headlights into the home across from the current curb cut.  

The roadway will circle around the back of the houses, with parking behind each house.  The front yards of the houses will end in walkable sidewalks, with the center forming an uninterrupted common “green” maintained by the community. 

 

Affordability and Bedroom Mix 

In 2019, the South Berkshire County Residential Real Estate Report showed the median sales price of a single family house in Great Barrington as $339,000.  From March to November of 2019, 52 houses were sold.  During the same period in 2020, 90 single family homes were sold, there are two months' inventory left in the market and the median price has risen to $469,000.  That price is affordable to local families at 223% of Area Median Income, making it unaffordable to 100% of Great Barrington renters.  

All of the Housatonic Homeownership  houses will be affordable at or below 100% AMI with a distribution that reflects, to the extent possible, the affordability gap illustrated in the 2020 Great Barrington Housing Needs Assessment: 

10% of the units will be affordable to households making up to 100% of AMI

45% of the units will be affordable to households making up to 80% of AMI

15% of the units will be affordable to households making up to 60% of AMI

30% of the units will be affordable to households making up to 40% of AMI 

 

These units will be deed restricted and affordable in perpetuity.  They will be listed on Great Barrington’s affordable housing inventory through the local initiatives program.   

For these homes, the target population is local first-time homebuyers.  Most likely, these families are currently renting.  Moving these families into home ownership units will have the added benefit of increasing the availability of rental units.  

Like most houses in the neighborhood, they will mostly be three-bedroom houses, maximizing the number of family housing in the development and ensuring salability when the family moves on. Most houses will have a Covid-adaptive space that can be used for office or classroom use, or as an additional bedroom. 

CBHFH and Construct will work with the town of Great Barrington and the Department of Housing and Community Development to implement a Local Initiatives Program.  This Program will identify the houses built at Housatonic Homeownership  as Affordable Housing and determine their listing as part of Great Barrington’s Affordable Housing Inventory.   

Accessibility and Adaptive Design 

10% of the houses will be ADA compliant but all of the houses will be visitable and the walkability of the development will be paramount. All Habitat homes are built with universal design and aging in place features. 

Sustainability 

Sustainability is extremely important to CBHFH and the following guidelines will be followed to ensure the energy efficiency and conservation mindedness of the buildings: 

Providing buildings that are environmentally sustainable, durable, require minimal maintenance, and are economical to operate. Energy efficient features include: compliance with Stretch code and zero energy ready status; all exterior walls are cellulose insulated wood frame walls; all EnergyStar LED lighting in units and common spaces; all EnergyStar rated appliances including refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, clothes dryers, etc.; all exterior glazing and windows are fiberglass frame, double glazed, low-E, argon filled to achieve an R5.1 value; all programmable thermostats with upset limits; extraordinary sealant/caulking measured during construction; window and other glass shading on southern and western sides of building to minimize excessive summer heat gain; insulated fiberglass doors; motion detectors on all common area lighting to minimize electricity use; motion detectors in all bathrooms to minimize use of fans and lighting. 

 

Creating a “Green” Community. Features include solar/PV- ready buildings: Low VOC paints, mastics, and interior finishes are used. There are programmable low- sone (quiet) bathroom fans to maintain healthy air inside the living units. All units have water saving devices such as aerators on all sinks and lavatories, low-flow shower heads,1.3 gallon toilets, etc. A Construction – Recycle Program will be required. There will be a total exclusion of carpets throughout the development to assist those with respiratory difficulties. There is full on-site storm-water retention with surface, open-air containment. Provision of a recycling system will be made for owners during occupancy. Exterior features include: composite exterior decking, sustainable vinyl siding and exterior trim; the installation of exterior solar lighting that minimizes the pollution of the dark night. 

Design Assumptions: 

• Simple, Decent, Affordable.

• No garages or outbuildings.

• A New curb cut will be permitted and a lighted pedestrian crosswalk.

• Solar Ready, but no PV unless new programs are introduced.

• MassWorks grant will provide water, sewer hook-up, gas lines and roadways.

• Electrical Lines run underground.

• Bedroom mix will be determined by the Families who join the Habitat Team.

• No one or two bedroom houses.

• Habitat standard house size and design: universal design.

 

Housatonic Homeownership Development 
Management Plan and Management Entity 

No matter who we are or where we come from, we all deserve to have a decent life. We deserve to feel strength and stability day after day. We deserve to know we have the power to take care of ourselves and build our own futures. At Habitat for Humanity, this is what unites us. Through shelter, we empower. Our shared vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. 

The point of our program isn’t providing a house; it is empowering buyers to own that home, and that includes equipping them with the education, tools and experience to make good decisions for their home and that of the Homeowners Association.  

The management plan begins the day the site belongs to Habitat.  We bring the community, neighbors, volunteers and potential homeowners into creating the Housatonic Homeownership  Village Community.  Building a community of care for the property, the homes and the people who will live there is the ultimate goal.  Through our proven model of volunteer and homeowners building side by side, together we reduce barriers, improve communication and build lasting relationships. 

As the homes are being built so are the skills of the future homeowners. Homeowners are learning how to build, maintain and care for their homes. They grow their skills in financial management, planning and leadership in the Building for Tomorrow Homeownership Enrichment Program which includes budgeting, coaching and financial training on personal finance 

and homeowner association management.  Through our learning modules homeowners create a “mock budget, price compare for insurance, evaluate proposals, create the rules of the association, host discussions and make decisions about green space usage, creation of a calendar of meetings and events of the association. 

 

They are also trained on advocacy, conflict resolution, mediation, and de-escalation skills.  Together they create expectations of the norms for the community and the written guidelines that include enforcement of the guidelines. 

If when you just read this you thought WOW that is a lot, you are correct.  Habitat walks beside them during the process sharing 25 years of condo management experience. Habitat will be the property Management Company and association accounting support for five years post full project completion.  

Habitat has a seat at the HOA for the life of the association.  Our program is about people empowerment.  The outcomes over 25+ years has shown that Habitat can lessen our role over time from active partner to supportive behind the scenes partner and advisor to the group.  

 

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Habitat for Humanity: We build strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter.  Stability requires predictability and reliability. Families can be confident that their homes won’t need major corrections, replacements, or upgrades immediately—or even for a while. They can trust the workmanship, the materials and the design. The Mission-Aligned Design Standards of Durability, Sustainability and Accessibility together into the home’s overall design and ensures that the long-term affordability of the home is an equal priority alongside its affordable upfront cost.