In The People's Blog, Updates from Jo

This blog is written by Elena Cohen, who’s the District Director on our state Senate team and a Northampton native.

Sixteen people touring the site of Sergeant House currently under construction

In front of Sergeant House on Bridge Street in Northampton. From left to right: Peg Keller, City of Northampton; Mel Antuna, Way Finders; Amanda Stutman, Way Finders; Lionel Romain, CEDAC; Pascale Desir, Way Finders; Roger Herzog, CEDAC; Joanne Campbell, Valley CDC; Michelle Fortier-Mcadaragh, Way Finders; Elena Cohen, Office of Senator Jo Comerford; Alana Murphy, DHCD; Secretary Mike Kennealy, EOHED; Kate Racer, DHCD; Faith Williams, Way Finders; Representative Lindsay Sabadosa; Amanda Bubon, Way Finders; Laura Baker, Valley CDC.

I spent Thursday morning touring three affordable housing properties in Northampton: Sergeant House, Live 155, and The Lumber Yard. All of these would not have been possible without strong collaboration between Valley CDC, Way Finders, Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), the City of Northampton, and our State partners.

Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy, Associate Director of DHCD Kate Racer, and their staff came to Northampton to tour the properties with representatives from Valley CDC, Way Finders, CEDAC, and the City of Northampton. This was part of their tour of 17 communities across the Commonwealth that have built new affordable housing with the support of state funds.

There is an urgent and critical need for affordable housing in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district. Our office receives regular calls from constituents seeking affordable housing, but who are hung up on a waitlist. The community partners told us that they can fill as many units as they can produce—The Lumber Yard’s 55 units were filled in one month, with 450 applicants before the deadline, and many more after.

The Sergeant House is being renovated to have a total of 31 units (all studio apartments). Originally built in 1820, The Sergeant House has been owned and operated by Valley CDC since 1990 as a 15-room SRO (Single Room Occupancy) building with one kitchen and four shared bathrooms. Valley CDC is building a 16-room addition which will more than double the number of tenants. The renovations will include needed repairs and increase the building’s accessibility with an elevator and three fully accessible units, add a kitchenette and bathroom to each unit, improve energy efficiency to a standard near net zero, and add an office for property management and social service providers, laundry facilities, common areas for tenants, and an outdoor deck. They will also provide on-site supportive services through a Resident Services Coordinator.

Female construction worker in neon yellow shirt holding hard hat speaking to Secretary Mike Kennealy inside Sergeant House building under construction

Sec. Mike Kennealy listening to one of the construction workers at Sergeant House

Live155 has 70 units (studios and one bedrooms), with 23 of those rented at market rates. All apartments are designed such that they can be visited by someone in a wheelchair and every floor is equipped with communal space. Supportive services are available to residents through partnerships with Way Finders, Northampton’s Veteran’s Services Department, ServiceNet, and the Center for Human Development (CHD).

Four people standing inside Live 155 in front of a wall of building mailboxes and a green mural with flowers

Inside Live 155

The Lumber Yard has 55 units (one, two, and three bedrooms) 12 of which are for people with extremely low incomes. Formerly the home of the Northampton Lumber Company, the property has been transformed and is now fully occupied. Preference is given to homeless individuals and families, and people at risk of homelessness, for six of the units.

Six people standing in a circle talking in an outdoor courtyard with The Lumber Yard apartment building in the background

Outdoor courtyard at The Lumber Yard

These projects took a great amount of work and collaboration, meeting both expected and unforeseen challenges – such as needing to relocate an underground stream that ran under what is now The Lumber Yard! Big thanks to our local non-profit organizations, partners in the City of Northampton, and State agency colleagues for all your work to make Northampton a more accessible city.

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Text reading "Dear Jo" over a background of a stack of letters