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Pittsfield Approves $110k More In Emergency Relief For Homeowners, Renters

A shot from a Zoom video conferencing meeting with lots of little heads in little boxes on a grid against a black background
Pittsfield Community Television
A still from the May 12th, 2020 Pittsfield City Council remote meeting

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts city council met Tuesday night to appropriate funding for emergency housing and sign off on tax increment financing plans for two prospective downtown businesses.

The council met remotely by video conference. It voted to affirm Mayor Linda Tyer’s order to appropriate $110,000 from the city’s Community Preservation Act fund into her economic relief package for homeowners and renters.

“There’s two sources of funding," explained Justine Dodds, the Community Development Program Manager for the city of Pittsfield. "The city received an allocation of Community Development Block Grand funding, additional, under the CARES Act that will be used to target households and persons affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city received almost $790,000 in CDBG funding from the CARES Act in April. Between $119,000 in federal relief and $100,000 in Community Preservation Act funds, Tyer’s plan initially created a $219,000 pool to give residents up to three months or $5,000 to help paying mortgage, rent and utilities. Dodds says last’s night’s vote again bolsters the emergency fund from CPA resources.

“And the second piece of this is that the Community Preservation Committee accepted an application on the city’s behalf to appropriate some of their funding that’s set aside for housing to combine with the CDBG CARES Act funding to provide assistance for renters who are experiencing a loss of income of need help paying rent as a result of pandemic,” she told WAMC.

The city has now set aside around $329,000 in emergency relief for its just over 19,700 households – a number cited by Pittsfield from 2010 census information.

The two funding sources – the federal grant in the form of CDBG resources and the city’s own CPA dollars – target different income levels.

“The CDBG CARES Act funding will be available for households that are at 80% or below of the median family income based on the HUD guidelines," said Dodds. "The CPA funding has a higher income level, so that goes up to 100% of the median family income.”

“This application was specifically put forward to fill a gap where there currently aren’t resources or are limited resources for people who fit in those income categories," said city planner CJ Hoss. He says Pittsfield uses information from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“100% of area median income – for a family of four this year, that’s $90,900 dollars for a family of four," Hoss told WAMC. "Whereas, for an individual person, that number would be more at $62,000.”

In its documents submitted to the council, the city of around 43,000 points to 2016 data pegging the median household income at $45,206 a year, with a per capita income of $27,830 a year.

The Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority will handle allocating grants to city residents who apply for the emergency relief.

“They deal with housing counseling services, tenancy preservation, both with homeowners and with renters," said Dodds. "They work with the other state programs, other state and federal programs that may be providing funding for households that can be used for rent, mortgage, and utilities.”

After the allocation, Pittsfield’s Community Preservation Act funding sits at around $450,000.

Also Tuesday, the council approved modified tax incremental financing agreements with two companies looking to develop businesses in downtown Pittsfield. Both a brewery and a new hotel will receive an additional year on their respective agreements with the city due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council also voted to spend $150,000 from the city’s Economic Development Funds – established in Pittsfield’s settlement with corporate polluter General Electric – to help the brewery project owned by Robert Trask buy equipment for its 41 North Street location. Mayor Tyer says the project represents an estimated capital investment of $1.7 million, with a projected 30 full-time jobs created in the next three years.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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