The Berkshire Argus Podcast
December 28, 2023
There’s no discussion of the economic future of the southern Berkshires that doesn’t have the cost and availability of housing at its center. Trends well underway in the last decade were accelerated by the COVID19 pandemic. The cost of houses to buy or rent has skyrocketed, fueled by:
An increase in properties acquired by part-time residents
Houses and apartments used exclusively for short-term rentals
A failure to keep up with demand via new construction
Cash buyers who can snap up properties before local working people can assemble financing
A zero-percent vacancy rate for rentals that pushes up rents.
The result of these and other factors has been an unusually large percentage of full-time residents spending more than a third of their income on housing costs, considered the standard for affordability. That’s pushed them further away, geographically, from jobs and family as they seek housing that’s affordable. It means businesses of all kinds are struggling to attract and keep staff, from the service- and tourism-industry jobs critical to the region, to higher-paid health care workers who simply can’t find a house to buy.
This episode of the podcast is a conversation about the current housing landscape with Bill Cooke and Ananda Timpane, two members of Great Barrington’s Affordable Housing Trust. It’s an appointed municipal board, made up of volunteers, and focused on securing funds and investing in housing solutions, from down-payment assistance, to subsidizing affordable units built by private developers, to advancing proposals for accessory dwelling units that can house more people and help those already living here afford to stay.
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