Williams Selects Development Team for Affordable Housing Project on College Land

Media contact: Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs; tele (413) 597-4233, email: jkolesar@williams.edu

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 20, 2013—Williams College has announced the selection of a four-organization team to develop affordable housing on land the college will make available for the project free of charge.

Acknowledging public efforts underway to develop affordable housing in Williamstown, Williams President Adam Falk added: “We happily announce today the launching of a complementary, privately organized project that has the benefit of a strong site and a development team that’s both deeply grounded in our community and experienced in producing and managing well-designed and effective housing that’s affordable.”

The almost four-acre parcel abuts the west side of the elderly affordable housing complex Proprietor’s Field. The four non-profit groups that have formed a partnership for this project are the Berkshire Housing Development Corporation (BHDC), Higher Ground, the Williamstown Elderly Housing Corporation (WEHC), and the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development.

BHDC has developed affordable housing throughout the county, and is the entity that in the 1970s developed Proprietor’s Field on land that the college had made available. The Women’s Institute has developed affordable housing throughout the region. Both have long been committed to designing projects that are responsive to their communities and sensitive to their neighborhoods. Higher Ground and WEHC are in a strong position to help organize community input to the process.

A consultant, hired by the college, had deemed the parcel uniquely suited for affordable housing. “It not only abuts current affordable housing,” Falk said, “but is clean; in town; on a public bus route; and near the senior center, for one set of potential residents, and across the street from the elementary school, for another.

“So well-suited is this land for affordable housing, that the college, with the approval of the Board of Trustees, has decided to donate it for this project.”

A recent, town-commissioned study reinforced the longstanding perception that Williamstown lacked sufficient affordable housing, with the situation having been made worse by the devastation of Tropical Storm Irene, which made homeless almost five percent of the town’s non-student population. Roughly one-quarter of them have been able to return to their homes, through an arrangement that is temporary.

“As the original developer and current property manager of Proprietor’s Field, we’re very excited to be chosen by Williams to be part of the team to help address the recognized housing needs in Williamstown,” BHDC President Elton Ogden said. “The site being offered by the college is ideally located for this use and the school’s offering of it is the catalyst needed to get the project started.”

Women’s Institute Deputy Director Mollye Wolahan expressed similar enthusiasm. “The Women’s Institute is honored to be part of the team chosen by Williams to promote affordable housing options for the Williamstown community,” she said. “Throughout our 32-year history, we’ve brought our professional development expertise to work and partnered with local advocates to create housing opportunities appropriate for each community. We look forward to continuing the discussion that Williamstown has already begun regarding the needs for affordable housing as we work with the community to define the appropriate housing for this site.”

As first steps, the development team will in the coming weeks study the parcel more closely and hold sessions to solicit community input on the scope, size, nature, and design of the project.

“No single project could meet 100 percent of the community’s affordable housing need,” Falk said. “But with this wonderfully well-suited land and with this experienced and well representative team, we can as a community take satisfaction in the fact that, to complement the public efforts underway, we’ve taken as of today an important step toward addressing this communal need.”

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Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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