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Introducing the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition

March 23, 2023

In May 2022, Way Finders kicked off an advocacy effort that we are happy to share some updates about. It all started by talking to organizations and entities that work in and serve our region—including public and private housing developers, cities and towns, regional organizations, and housing advocates. We wanted to ask questions, glean insight, and spark collaboration around one critical issue: the availability of safe, affordable housing. Or rather, the dire lack thereof.

The Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition—50+ organizations strong—has together identified a series of legislative priorities for Western Massachusetts that are tailored to address our area’s specific housing challenges.

We presented these priorities on February 10, 2023, to the Western Massachusetts legislative delegation, which included senators and representatives from Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. The conversation it inspired was robust, and we hope to have a similar presentation and discussion at a future date with Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll.

What we are most proud of, and grateful for, is how willing our coalition members have been to share information relevant toward closing the housing supply gap in our region—which we know is currently at more than 11,000 units and projected to grow to 19,000 by 2025 (as determined by studies by the UMass Donahue Institute).

We asked the coalition: “Tell us about what you plan to develop in the next five years?” And members answered. This is noteworthy! Historically, such intel regarding project pipelines, budgets, and locations is kept private. It’s exciting to us that people are willing to share to bolster our advocacy efforts. 

A quick breakdown of what we’ve learned:

•    Total units in development: about 1,200 
•    Total projects: 51
•    Location of projects: in 18 cities and towns (of the 101 cities and towns in the four counties)
•    Cost to finance: half a billion dollars

This information allows us to go further toward articulating the significant resources needed to close the region’s housing supply gap. Specifically, the need to invest at least $7 billion in housing production, preservation and rehab—along with an increased capacity to drive such work (via the fields of real estate development, construction and skilled trades, and property management). Which is to say, we need both the financial resources and the infrastructure (and people power) to spin funding into housing.

While there’s no magic fix for the crisis in housing availability and affordability that is playing out across the state and our region, the strides we are making with the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition feel different in all the right ways. We are working together across sectors. We are working together regionally, with municipalities and legislators. And we are identifying and forming a vision for how to create a stronger, more equitable, and more economically thriving region.

Learn more about the Western Massachusetts Housing Coalition and our priorities below.

Keith Fairey, President & CEO