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In Chesterfield, LG Driscoll discusses community investment tax credit program

Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll addresses those gathered at the Hilltown Community Development Corp. on Thursday, May 16, 2024.
James Paleologopoulos
Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll addresses those gathered at the Hilltown Community Development Corp. on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

The lieutenant governor of Massachusetts was in Chesterfield this week, touting the work of a local community development group - and a large tax credit it’s been awarded.

Perched off of Main Road, the home of the Hilltown Community Development Corporation sits near the center of town and has long been a force when it comes to supporting the rural communities surrounding it.

The private non-profit says since 1981, it has helped some 2,000 business owners, develop and rehab tons of housing and even help drive seniors to doctor appointments.

And on Thursday, it hosted dozens of officials as Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll unveiled plans to boost support for their mission.

“[I’m] so pleased to have such a packed room here to celebrate what we think is a really important and necessary community investment in our CDCs,” Driscoll told.

Driscoll detailed new and potential investments for not just Hilltown, but community development corporations across the state.

A credit award amount of $300,000 has been allotted to Hilltown CDC, part of some $12 million that’s going to CDCs throughout Massachusetts.

The tax credits come by way of the Community Investment Tax Credit or CITC program, something Hilltown CDC Executive Director Dave Christopolis has called a game-changer.

“Out in the hilltowns, we don't have a lot of commercial activity in these towns - we don't generate that kind of revenue that you might see in a larger, populated area,” he said. “But, we have been able to attract donors to our work and investors to our work and the tax credit program has just been, like I said, a real game changer for us.”

Massachusetts' hilltowns stretch through rural areas of the state’s four westernmost counties – Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire. Chesterfield, in Hampshire County, is home to just over a thousand residents and sits between Pittsfield and Northampton.

Driscoll described the CITC program as a system that leverages not only state resources, but also private philanthropy.

“When we put $12 million dollars out, we're really getting $24 million worth of benefit, and that's going to support the investments in neighborhoods and placemaking people who take care of our kids, who need a place to stay, having the sort of ability to have housing units come online, be preserved for affordability - ensuring that the people who pour coffee and beer in our communities, your favorite waitress, anybody who hands you anything over a counter, that they can live in our communities too at a time when that’s becoming really, really difficult,” Driscoll said.

According to their website, the non-profit has “built or renovated 17 homes for first-time home buyers” and owns at least 68 rental units.

That includes Chester, where a project to convert the old Chester High School building is about 50 percent complete, according to Christopolis.

The school was converted into housing decades ago, but with its owner retiring, Hilltown CDC purchased it and has been converting the siteagain, which is intended for over a dozen apartments for people over the age of 55 or who have disabilities.

Also detailed Thursday - the Healey-Driscoll administration’s goal of not only expanding the tax credit program, but also to make it permanent.

Ed Augustus, the state’s Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities, was on hand to detail the plans.

“It was set to expire, and we're going to make it permanent, so that means going forward, it won't have to be reauthorized every five years, it'll be permanent,” Augustus said. “And we're increasing it from $12 million to $15 million, which means there will be $3 million more available to CDCs around Massachusetts, to go out, get those private donations that get the benefit of the tax credit and those donations go into the work of the CDCs.”

Adding permanency is part of the broader, $4 billion “Affordable Homes Act” filed by the governor’s office, which remains in legislative committee.