BRPC and 1Berkshire, with the support of a broad working group of housing practitioners from throughout Berkshire County, have launched A Housing Vision for the Berkshires, a regional strategy 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. The working group started in 2020, including dozens of regional partners and housing practitioners to capture data, identify challenges and opportunities, and provide outreach to additional community stakeholders throughout Berkshire County.
A Housing Vision for the Berkshires is the first product to come out of this work and is intended as phase one to begin addressing systemic challenges in housing development. The report features over 60 recommended strategies to 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 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.”