BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) is pleased to announce that the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has awarded Soldier On (formerly United Veterans of America) $2,614,260 in financial assistance for the Berkshire Veterans Village development project on West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield.
“This funding is critical for Soldier On to begin construction on the Berkshire Veterans Village,” lauded Senator Downing. “The successful completion of this project will realize Soldier On’s ultimate goal of providing homeless veterans with the safety, security and dignity of owning their own home.”
Berkshire Veterans Village is a first-of-its kind limited equity housing project that will serve as a national model. Compromised of 39 affordable housing units, Berkshire Veterans Village will provide veterans with a place they can call their own, and is unique due to its use of individual deposit accounts for each participant in the housing cooperative. The housing itself is funded through grants and donations to Solider On, allowing money usually paid as debt service on a housing loan to be deposited into an account for the owners. After five years, or if a resident decides to sell their share in the development, veterans can receive these funds for discretionary use, providing each resident with further incentive to keep their lives on track.
“There are two great points illustrated by this award,” said Jack F. Downing, President and CEO of Soldier On. “First, this shows how supportive the state and federal governments are towards veterans programming. Berkshire Veterans Village marks the first time in the history of the United States that we’ll build ownership units for formerly homeless veterans. Second, the progressive leadership of the Berkshire County legislative delegation has been behind this project from its inception, and this package reflects the bridges that have been built between them, DHCD and our federal representatives. Their support helped us to get this done. Soldier On enjoys the tremendous privilege and responsibility of being out in front with this new type of housing project, and our leaders have done a great job in responding to our vision.”
The total subsidy is based on awards from four Housing Development programs administered by DHCD: the HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), the Housing Innovations Fund (HIF), Community Based Housing (CBH) and the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). DHCD Housing Development programs provide funding opportunities to for-profit and non-profit developers. The programs offered encourage the development of affordable rental projects that serve both families and individuals with annual incomes at or below 80% of area median income. Specifically:
HOME is a federally funded program that assists in the production and preservation of affordable housing for low and moderate-income families and individuals. The program funds a broad range of activities including new construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of rental properties.
HIF provides funding for the creation and preservation of alternative forms of affordable housing. These forms include, but are not limited to, single room occupancy (SRO) units, limited equity cooperative housing, transitional housing for the homeless, battered women's shelters, mutual housing, employer assisted housing and lease to purchase housing.
The CBH Program provides funding for the development of integrated housing for people with disabilities, including elders, with priority for individuals who are in institutions or nursing facilities or at risk of institutionalization.
The Affordable Housing Trust Fund has been structured to ensure that many different types of organizations are eligible to receive financing. Eligible applicants include governmental subdivisions, community development corporations, local housing authorities, community action agencies, community-based or neighborhood-based non-profit housing organizations, other non-profit organizations, for-profit entities and private employers.