Tuesday, September 23, 2014

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Pittsfield demonstrates need for more low income housing

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Albany/HV: Pittsfield demonstrates need for more low income housing
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A housing complex opened its doors in Pittsfield, offering affordable apartments to low income tenants. As Berkshire County reporter Madeleine Rivera tells us, the opening meets the growing need for affordable housing in Pittsfield.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- "I feel great about it. They're beautiful apartments," said Sarah Simmons.

She just moved in to the newly opened Rice Silk Mill housing complex on Spring Street. With over 150 applicants and only 45 units available, she considers herself lucky to have landed an apartment.

"If you fit within a certain income criteria, you qualify," said Jenn Pittman, Occupancy Specialist for the Berkshire Housing Development Corporation.

"It's tough to afford apartments as is. It's tough out there. And we want to make sure people are safe, people are comfortable and that they can afford it," she said.

Affordable housing has been an issue in Pittsfield. Here, a third of people are renters and many have a hard time paying their rent. According to the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, more than half of Pittsfield renters put more than 30 percent of their income into rent. In some cases, it's more than half their income.

"If you have an income of more than $1,000 a month, you're paying more than $500 of your income towards rent. And when you have those type of situations or that type of dynamic, it makes it very challenging for that household to have long term stability," said Brad Gordon, Executive Director of the Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority.

Rice Silk Mill housing is for low income applicants, so you have anywhere from single young professionals to seniors. In fact, she says about 40 percent of their applicants right now do not get any form of assistance. And then you have about 60 percent who do get some form of housing subsidy.

"It seems like when people hear low income housing, they automatically think it's going to be dirty or it's going to be ugly or there's not enough space. But it's not always like that because of places like this. And if we had more places like this, well it would be better because we wouldn't have to live like that," said Simmons.

About nine of the apartments in the complex are occupied. Pittman says they're still accepting applications.

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