A Berkshires Select Board Member Makes Her Pitch For Affordable Housing
Great Barrington Select Board member and Vice Chair Leigh Davis has one mission in life as she is determined to implement affordable housing throughout South County. She recently spoke at a forum north of us in Stockbridge as the aim was to address a Real Estate Transfer Fee proposal.
Davis also serves as Chair of Great Barrington’s Housing Subcommittee that considered the measure for about eight months.
She remains optimistic regarding her presence in a recent mid-September meeting. The final vote resulted in a 2 to 2 tie with Select Board member Garfield Reed abstaining as the article was prevented from being added to the Special Town Meeting Warrant which is scheduled to take place on October 23rd as this session may include an important vote of a possible local school merger in south county. Here are her thoughts on the proposed measure which would benefit south county communities:
“I zeroed in on the real estate transfer fee as one opportunity to provide revenue to fund affordable and workforce housing. “The people that are working here, to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment, you need to make $28 an hour adding that longtime residents of the area are being pushed out. “The typical service wage is probably closer to $19 an hour. There’s this great disparity of assessed value versus sale price. They are just on completely opposite ends".
Statistics show any revenue earned by this transfer fee is deposited in the trust’s fund and could be used to purchase property, setting the resale or rental value at affordable rates that she explained this could be accessed by teachers, retail employees, and restaurant workers.
Area developers have applauded this measure as Davis reiterated:
“They can see that the coffee shops are closing early, or the restaurants are not opening, or that the barista is moving to Northampton because they can’t afford their property.”
West Stockbridge Select Board Chair Kathleen Keresey was also in the audience as she intently listened to Davis' pitch that would determine a foundation for the neighboring tourist drawn community.
Great Barrington’s homes appreciated 73 percent over the past five years. Davis remains optimistic regarding this matter on hand as results have been showing a modest and positive outlook in her back yard:
“People have made quite a lot of money, so you consider 73 percent appreciation over five years on your property and the half percent that we’re asking the buyer or the seller to pay on properties over $1 million, it really puts things in perspective,”
In closing, nothing has yet been etched in stone. Davis also commented on a high note upon the closing of this special session:
“I don’t need to say to anyone that there is a housing crisis. It’s not just a Great Barrington issue, it’s not just a Stockbridge issue; it’s a regional issue, it’s a national issue. This proposal is just a foot in the door; there’s nothing locked in stone. What we need to do is to give residents something to vote on so that it can go on to a warrant"
Davis stated she is part of a group that is trying to think of ways to generate revenue and provide programs and solutions to the issue. Stand by! We'll keep you posted as the situation warrants.
(Some information obtained in this article courtesy of www.thebershireedge.com and excerpts were featured in Leigh Davis' Linked In page at www.linkedin.com)
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