Dalton is taking the lead on an affordable housing grant and researching the possibility of transforming the old Nessacus School (the former Dalton High School) into housing.
DALTON, Mass. — The town is taking the lead on a grant application to allow four Berkshire communities to address housing development needs, including the re-purposing of its former middle school.
The Select Board decided it would act as the lead community in a joint grant application to receive $60,000 in state funding for Planning Assistance for Housing Productivity.
A portion of this grant money will be used to continue its efforts to determining the feasibility converting the former Nessacus Regional Middle School into affordable housing.
According to Patricia Mullins, a senior planner for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), four towns — Dalton, Adams, Great Barrington and Richmond — will be awarded $15,000 by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), at no additional expense, if the application is accepted.
Despite a declining population in the town and in Berkshire County, Mullins said there are still housing needs to be addressed.
"It's not one I can necessarily answer. We do have fewer and fewer people all the time, but we still have people needing housing," Mullins said. "We have to answer their needs. We have to look out to their future 20 or 30 years from now, how much housing are we going to need and who are we going to need it for?"
Last year, the town spent $10,000 to support a Comprehensive Housing Needs Assessment. It plans to allot another $10,000 to complete a Housing Production Plan based on this study, with an anticipated completion date of June 30. The rest of the grant funding, $5,000, will go toward the issuance of requests for proposals, Town Meeting warrants and additional permitting costs, according to the application.
Along with the Berkshire Housing Development Corp., the town is exploring the feasibility of converting the former Nessacus Regional Middle School building at 120 First St. to 40 affordable housing units, among other endeavors to address the various needs of Dalton residents.
According to the application, Dalton is challenged with a widening gap in the age of its aggregate population, with an aging population who will soon seek new housing options and a potentially growing population of young professionals and families that will demand affordable housing.
The BRPC reports that the town has lost 5 percent of its total population of 20 years ago. One third of Dalton residents are seniors, including a 23 percent increase in that portion of the population since 2000.
More than one third of the town's housing stock was built before 1939, according to the BRPC.