Highland Woods, Williamstown, MA
When you live in Williamstown, Massachusetts, you don’t expect to be made homeless by a tropical storm. But that’s what happened to the 300 residents of Spruces Mobile Home Park, a 52+ community on the banks of the Hoosic River.
First came the floods. Then FEMA and its Massachusetts counterpart decided that half the park was uninhabitable due to the destruction of underground utilities. That tipped the balance for the owner; the park wasn’t economically sustainable with only half the tenants. The town purchased the property, the Park became a park—and the residents needed a new place to call home.
But where would all the people go? Spruces had represented over 40% of the town’s affordable housing. If these residents were going to stay in town, new housing would be required.
“What happened next,” says Elton Ogden, President of Berkshire Housing & Development Corporation (BHDC), “was an incredible level of collaboration.” A coalition formed, uniting government agencies with Williams College, BHDC, The Women’s Institute for Housing & Economic Development, Williamstown Elderly Housing and Higher Ground, a nonprofit formed specifically to channel donations to and help relocate the former residents of Spruces.
Together, they created Highland Woods, a 40-apartment complex of 100% affordable senior housing. "We needed access to the federal low-income housing tax credit program for the permanent financing to work. We had a terrific response to our construction financing RFP," says Ogden, but a partnership between BlueHub Capital (then known as Boston Community Capital) and The Life Initiative "rose straight to the top. It was an easy choice."
Of course, there were issues. "There are always curve balls in these types of deals," Ogden says, and BlueHub Capital "has been very accommodating, helping work out tricky financial issues. They are a pleasure to work with.”
Photo credit: Marilyn Humphries