Housing Identified as Largest Need for Pittsfield CDBG Funds

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Housing was consistently identified as an area of need during an annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) hearing.

More than 20 participants attended the virtual hearing on Wednesday. Through a survey over the Zoom platform, they voted housing as the top priority to support the community on two occasions.

"Poverty issues are endemic so sometimes it is difficult to know how much the pandemic has worsened issues," Local community development worker Nicole Fecteau wrote in a chat feature during the meeting. "But housing accessibility remains a severe issue for our members."

This is reflected in the spending of CDBG funds for the fiscal 2022, as 47 percent was allocated for housing rehabilitation and demolitions. Projects include 11 units of rehabilitation, one accessible ramp, and four buildings demolished.

For fiscal 2022 and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Year 2021, the city was given about $1.34 million and 53 percent was spent on housing rehabilitations and demolitions.

Participants also voted housing rehabilitation and demolition as having the largest impact on the community last year.

The Department of Community Development receives these funds from HUD annually. It is intended to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing, provide a suitable living environment and expand economic opportunities that primarily benefit low and moderate-income residents.

Every year, the department accepts proposals for public service projects. Applications are available starting at the beginning of November and the first week of January.

Eligible CDBG activities must be used to provide a benefit for low and moderate-income persons, prevent or eliminate conditions of slum and blight, or meet an urgent community need that threatens the health and welfare of residents and where there's no other source of funding available.

In Pittsfield, eligible areas of CDBG investment are the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods.

For fiscal 2022, 21 percent of the funds are allocated for public facilities, 18 percent for public services, and 14 percent for economic development. Projects include the Fenn Street homeless shelter, sidewalk improvements, technical assistance funds for nine small businesses, and funding for 15 public service programs.

During the hearing, community members also gave feedback on specific areas of need in the two eligible neighborhoods. In Morningside, the areas of Morningside Community School and Tyler Street/Dalton Avenue were flagged for needing improvements.

Participants flagged areas all over the entirety of the Westside.

"I would like to see some more money spent on sidewalks in the West Side initiative area, rehabilitations done, housing and demolitions," Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said.

Improved facilities and services for city parks were also called for.

"One of the things that I think would be useful is developing easier ways for pedestrians to access all the different parks that are in the neighborhoods," Resident Kamaar Taliaferro said.

"It can be kind of hard crossing Tyler Street with a bunch of kids and sometimes is a little bit intimidating of a walk to go from near Morningside to The Common with a group of kids as well."

For the next steps, data from this meeting will be compiled into a draft plan that will be available on the city’s website on April 26.  

Per federal guidelines, the public has 30 days to comment on that plan with the period running from April 27 to May 26. During this time the public can provide comments to the Department of Community Development.

Director of Community Development Justine Dodds can be contacted at jdodds@cityofpittsfield.org as well as Housing Specialist and Fair Housing Officer Henide Harvender at hharvender@cityofpittsfield.org.

Tags: CDBG,   housing,   

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Dalton Voters OK Articles at Special Town Meeting

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — Fewer than a dozen voters at Monday's special town meeting took only 10 minutes to pass the two articles on the warrant. 
Article 1 was amended to include an additional $4,000 to cover trash removal from Town Hall, the senior center, garage, and park, based on a recent contract proposal with Casella.  
This addition brought the total amount for Article 1 to $12,643, of which $8,6324 will pay sewer and debt expenses that were not anticipated for the annual town meeting. 
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