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It’s time to build

The Lakeville Journal Editorial

If anyone reading this still doubts that more affordable housing is needed in Northwest Corner towns, and really in all 21 towns covered by the Northwest Hills Council of Governments (NHCOG), now is the time to change that opinion. Yes, there is data that proves this need, and it’s been collected (and consistently made public) over decades, but also very recently. See the front page story by Senior Reporter Patrick L. Sullivan in the April 8 Lakeville Journal for a clear assessment by NHCOG’s Jocelyn Ayer and Janell Mullen on their housing needs assessment report and pending state legislation, and this week’s story on a Salisbury meeting, to see some of that data. 

For even more, take a look at the Salisbury town website, and under boards/commissions/committees, look at “affordable housing.” There is lots of information and research gathered there. Open the link to the Salisbury Affordable Housing Commission 2018 Affordable Housing Plan. Here is deep and excellent research on housing needs in Salisbury, gathered by this commission that was “created by Town Meeting vote in December 2010 to facilitate and promote the creation of affordable housing in the Town of Salisbury,” as noted in the report. The report gathers information going back to 2010 and its conclusion is that 75 affordable housing units need to be created and functional by 2028. 

This is just Salisbury, of course, which according to Ayer and Mullen’s report has 1.62% of the 10% affordable housing needed to fulfill the state requirement. Only North Canaan of the Region One towns has 10% with 162 units. 

This is a problem in need of solutions that has roiled for too long. With Falls Village (currently 1.41% affordable housing) and Salisbury (1.62%, as noted above) both looking at real plans, and in the case of Falls Village an approved proposal, for multi-unit housing, there are now the beginnings of solutions on the table that can get these communities closer to compliance. That’s compliance with not only regulations, but also with a rational approach to offering housing for more humans, and not just those with deep pockets. Because very deep pockets are needed to afford housing in the area as sale prices have increased dramatically for years, but especially since the influx of new population during the pandemic. 

Both these projects should be built, and more planned, in order to assure a vibrant future for these rural communities. No site is perfect; after all, this is real life. But for those who cannot find housing here or afford what little is available now, those sites look just fine. Many people grew up in Lakeville when its center was much busier and built up than it is now, and enjoyed their lives in this small town. Just ask Lloyd Baroody. And the Falls Village affordable housing plan has been reduced in size, but will still give the town a start in addressing a dearth of places where young people, older people or working people can reasonably live.

For those in Salisbury who offer alternative sites to the present proposal: Those other sites that are available should also be developed. The stated goal of the 2018 Commission report is for 75 additional units.  Something must begin if there is any chance of approaching that number of units available. 

The same goes for Falls Village, as far as looking at more than one site. Considering the length of time it takes to obtain land, design the buildings and get approvals, much less find funding and then begin and complete the actual buildings, this work needs to be taken seriously and supported by the towns and their residents now if anything like the critical need for housing here is to be met.

Thank you to all those volunteers who have worked long hours, often thanklessly, to make these projects become viable options for their towns. Your work should now become reality.

For more on affordable housing data and needs, go to your town websites or to www.northwesthillscog.org. And go to www.tricornernews.com and find much reporting and editorializing on the issue of affordable housing. 

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