After years of development and construction, Highland Woods, Williamstown’s newest affordable housing project, will open in February.
In August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene swept through Williamstown’s Spruces Mobile Home Park, leaving nearly five percent of the Williamstown population homeless. In October 2011, the Berkshire Housing Development Corporation began collaborating with the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development and the non-profit organization Higher Ground in efforts to develop a new affordable housing project for the hundreds of Spruces residents displaced by the storm.
One of the key players, Higher Ground, was founded in November 2011. Recognizing the critical need to help Spruces residents recover, the organization began spearheading several fundraising efforts and raised thousands of dollars in donations towards the development of Highland Woods.
According to Elton Ogden, president of the Berkshire Housing Development Corporation, the success of this project can be attributed to the collaboration between the different entities involved. The Corporation served as both the developer and owner of the project. Meanwhile, the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development acted as the development consultant, providing technical expertise on seeking and handling funds. Higher Ground, on the other hand, was described by Ogden as the “local consciousness.” As the local voice, Higher Ground offered valuable input from local residents regarding any ideas or issues that arose.
The project, which cost $12.6 million, is built on a four-acre parcel of land donated by the College. Primary funding was raised through the sale of low-income housing tax credits. Other funds came in the form of Massachusetts housing bond bills and generous grants from the town of Williamstown.
Currently, Ogden stated that there is a “significant shortage of affordable housing in town.” Located at the end of Southworth Street and featuring 40 apartments, Highland Woods will mainly house residents who are 62 years of age or older with a low or moderate income. There is also a limited time waiver for current or previous Spruces residents who are 55 years of age or older. The complex will contain a mixture of single and two-bedroom apartments. Interested residents are encouraged to submit an application. Residents who qualify for Highland Woods will then be chosen based on a lottery system.
While many are looking forward to the debut of Highland Woods, Higher Ground is still actively seeking donations for an accessible community garden, paved accessible walkways and other amenities. On Dec. 18 at 6 p.m., the organization is hosting a benefit concert titled “Home for the Holidays” at the Williams Inn.
Overall, Ogden described the development of Highland Woods as a “great example … of a community working hard, kind of getting behind and getting committed to doing something, and making it happen in record time.”