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  • Writer's pictureGreater Springfield Habitat for Humanity

Advocacy can translate to positive change

The lack of affordable housing in Western Massachusetts is a very real and tangible problem. As is, homeownership is increasingly out of reach for many people, especially those in the Black and Latino communities. Additionally, in the Pioneer Valley (Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties), it’s estimated 19,000 homes are needed by 2025 to keep up with the projected demand, according to the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition’s 2023 Western Massachusetts Legislative Priorities. This legislative session, the coalition and its allies are advocating to pass the Massachusetts Housing Bond Bill.

This Holyoke home was built, in part, using the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA resources. The plan provides funding to build an equitable economy following the devastating financial effects by the COVID pandemic. A Greater Springfield Habitat home costs approximately $200,000 to build. The nonprofit received $335,000 in ARPA funds in 2021 for the construction of two Holyoke homes.

The bill is just a piece of the Affordable Homes Act, which is considered the largest housing investment in Massachusetts. Passing the bill and increasing funding limits to the coalition’s five highest priority components means an accelerated timeline of building more affordable housing with solutions tailored to Western Mass. Since 2018, these programs have funded 73 projects with $48.5 million.

GSHFH and two other Habitat affiliates are three of 51 groups and organizations that makes up the Western Mass Housing Coalition. “If we’re not out here advocating on behalf of families in need, to get funding for land and construction to provide affordable housing opportunities, nobody would. We work as their voice,” said Aimee Giroux, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity (GSHFH) executive director.

Western Massachusetts is a softer market, then say Boston, according to the coalition’s “Housing Bond Bill – Highest Priority Programs” document. Like the capital city, construction costs are just as high, but rents are lower. Plus, Western Mass has a diversified landscape of urban, suburban, and rural areas. areas. In addition to increased funding, the coalition requests financial support for the Zero Carbon Renovation Fund. Western Mass has some of the oldest housing stock in the state and significant funding is often required to meet climate and efficiency goals.

Secondly, the coalition supports a proposed increase to the Massachusetts’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which is a tax incentive to construct or renovate affordable rental housing for low-income families. Since 2018, the tax credit has funded nearly $20 million for 14 projects in Western Mass.

Affordable housing needs to be advocated for by all throughout Western Mass. Increased access to housing provides economic benefits to every community.

“To everyone in the Way Finders’ orbit, I share this message: ‘When housing is on your town’s agenda, show up for housing. Find out what’s being proposed. Say “Yes” to creating the mix of affordable housing that all communities need — especially to hold on to and attract residents and to keep the economy strong’,” said Keith Fairey, Way Finders president and CEO.

For more information on how to advocate on behalf of Greater Springfield Habitat, visit

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