Pittsfield Gets $1M to Demolish Blighted Buildings

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Houses on Orchard Street.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – The city has received more than a $1 million in stimulus funding to deal rejuvenate blighted neighborhoods and abandoned homes.

"This funding will accelerate the city's efforts to provide critical resources to our residents and address the negative effect abandoned housing can have on our neighborhoods," said Mayor James M. Ruberto. "With these funds, we are able to accelerate our efforts to rid the Westside and Morningside of blight."

A total of $1,014,951 in funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is being made available through the Community Development Block Grant-R funds and Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Programs. The money is federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

"In these tough economic times it is also important to provide our residents with as many resources as possible to help them stay in their homes, or when necessary find new housing," said the mayor.

The city has made code enforcement a priority, and has done "an outstanding job at implementing innovative programming," said Brad Gordon, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority.

"In very few communities do the health, fire, building, and community development offices work collaboratively to aggressively move this type initiative forward," he said. "The city continues to have the foresight to ensure that our neighborhoods remain stable and viable during these challenging economic times."

The city’s Department of Community Development will oversee the block grants. These funds will be used to reconstruct sidewalks in income eligible areas of the city and to demolish approximately 10 vacant and condemned residential structures, nearly doubling the number of blighted properties the city has been able to demolish in the past five years.

The $613,738 Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program stimulus funding will provide resources for Pittsfield households experiencing housing instability caused by the current economic downturn. This funding will be used to fund a collaborative effort between the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Berkshire Housing Development Corp., Berkshire Community Action Council and Western Massachusetts Legal Services.

The program will include providing financial assistance for income eligible renters in the city who are at risk of losing their housing. Additional services under the program include: Housing Counseling, Housing Search Assistance, Housing Mediation, Legal Assistance, and Economic Literacy and Credit Counseling.
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BCAC Taps Community For Needs Assessment

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Christina Maxwell of the Food Bank of Western Mass talks  about food security.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Poverty was the topic of conversation on Friday to help the Berkshire Community Action Council gauge the needs in the community.
Community leaders and experts lead a panel Friday morning at the Berkshire Athenaeum to help spark a conversation among participants focused on poverty and its different catalysts.   
"We are all interested in working on the destabilizing effects poverty is having on our community and so we hope that we will get some good information here," BCAC Executive Director Deborah Leonczyk said. "So please give us your ideas, your suggestions. Give us your experiences we need to hear it all."
She said as the federally designated anti-poverty agency in the county, every three years BCAC must "take the pulse" of the community and find out what the needs are. This will inform the action plan for the next three years.
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