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Funds approved for second year of historic home repairs

 A Craftsman-style house in the historic McKnight neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts
A Craftsman-style house in the historic McKnight neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts

Program will be offered in all local historic districts in Springfield

A program that offers the owners of historic houses in Springfield, Massachusetts access to money to make exterior improvements will continue for a second year.

The Springfield City Council approved $235,000 to fund the Historic Homes Rehabilitation Program. The money is coming from the Community Preservation Act.

Last year, the owners of nine houses in the McKnight neighborhood, were given a total of $200,000 to make improvements that included painting, window and door replacements, and other exterior repairs to houses that are more than a century old.

The program will now be offered in each of the city’s seven local historic districts where there are an estimated 1,200 houses, said Bob McCarroll, chairman of the Community Preservation Committee.

“If we can do 7-8 houses that need it every year, over time it will do something,” McCarroll said.

Another change from last year will see the citizen-led CPC take over the administration of the program from the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development, said McCarroll.

“We intend to continue running the program as the planning department did which is there was an application deadline, applications were put into a lottery and names were chosen until the money ran out,” McCarroll explained.

The program is restricted to owner-occupied houses and the property-owners must be unable to pay for the improvements entirely on their own.

“There is a sliding scale that determines the percentage of municipal participation versus owner participation in the program based on income,” McCarroll said. “So if a person is low income, the program picks up the entire cost.”

The City Council vote to authorize the CPA funding was unanimous.

City Councilor Jesse Lederman praised the CPC for its willingness to take over the administration of the program.

“It is desperately needed in the local historic districts,” he said.

Lederman said a housing trust fund that the Council is in the process of establishing could be a source of money to expand the program in the future.

Councilor Malo Brown said the program may the only way the owners of some historic homes can afford exterior repairs.

“It can run as much as ( the cost of) a new home,” said Brown.

Since, 2018, the CPC has recommended funding 56 projects that cost a total of more than $7 million.

The money is raised by a residential property tax surcharge. Spending is restricted to projects and programs that involve historic preservation, housing and open 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.