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Funding Announced To Start Construction Of New Housing In Holyoke, North Amherst

  The Baker administration is putting more financial support behind projects to build rental housing in Massachusetts.  Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced the latest awards in Holyoke today.

   A combination of subsidies and tax credits totaling $35 million will help finance new rental housing construction projects in a half-dozen municipalities from Amherst to Cape Cod. 

   "We are very pleased these resources will be available to create 511 new rental units including 348 affordable units," said Lt. Gov. Polito as she announced the latest housing awards Tuesday in the City Council Chambers at Holyoke City Hall.

   Many municipal officials and project developers attended the announcement.

          The funding awards were announced for projects in Holyoke, Amherst, Cambridge, Lawrence, Eastham, and Yarmouth.

   During her remarks, Polito stressed the Republican administration’s commitment to addressing the state’s shortage of housing.   She said the governor had filed a $1.3 billion housing bond bill with the legislature back in April.  

   Last week, Baker announced an initiative that includes proposed changes in zoning laws intended to facilitate more housing construction.

   "Our approach is to incentivize and reward communities that plan for and build more housing for the people of this Commonwealth," Polito said.

   Massachusetts home prices have increased at the fastest rate in the country partly as a result of a decades-long slowdown in new housing construction.

   Democratic State Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke said state financial support to build more housing is a bipartisan issue.

   " The only way to get these ( projects) done is with tax credits and state support because the margins are not there to make these projects happen, so the tax credits push these projects over the finish line," said Vega.

   Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said the state financial support announced Tuesday is for a project that has been in the pipeline for five years: to redevelop three vacant buildings and an empty lot in the city’s downtown to create 47 new apartments.

   " It is called Library Commons and it is in the same neighborhood as  our public library, " explained Morse. "The city spend $14.5 million to renovate and expand our public library and now we will see some of the abandoned buildings around the library get renovated and rehabilitated into a useful purpose as residential buildings."

   Also awarded state tax credits Tuesday is the $47 million redevelopment of a former saw mill in North Amherst.  Plans for the project call for the construction of three new buildings that will have 130-rental apartments and commercial space.          

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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