Renovation of vacant Greenfield house will help those ‘priced out’ of home ownership

An architect’s rendering of the home at 42 Cleveland St. in Greenfield, post-renovations.

An architect’s rendering of the home at 42 Cleveland St. in Greenfield, post-renovations. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-13-2024 3:22 PM

GREENFIELD — Rural Development Inc., a Montague-based nonprofit affiliated with the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, is renovating a vacant three-bedroom home on Cleveland Street for reuse as affordable housing.

The 42 Cleveland St. home — which has been vacant for about 10 years — will be transformed into an energy-efficient building for a first-time homebuyer who earns no more than 80% of Franklin County’s median income.

“Affordable housing remains a constant concern throughout Greenfield and the commonwealth,” Mayor Ginny Desorgher wrote in a statement. “This tremendous project is a representation of the thoughtful avenues communities can embrace to make a lasting impact on their housing inventory.”

According to RDI Housing Development Director Alyssa Larose, the nonprofit will undertake a thorough renovation of the home — first clearing it of asbestos, then tearing down and replacing the walls, insulating it and bringing it up to the state energy code. The house’s roof will also be replaced and both its front and back porches will be repaired.

“The whole interior of the house is really going to be gutted,” Larose said. “It will have all-new heating systems, plumbing, electrical. We’ll be converting it from oil heat to energy-efficient heat pumps.”

RDI, Larose said, spoke with Greenfield city officials, the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, and members of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) while it planned the project.

Those interested in purchasing the property will be subject to an application process that will include a first-time homebuyer course. The eventual buyer will be chosen through a public lottery process. The home will come with a 15-year affordability restriction and, if sold within the first 15 years of its initial purchase, must be sold at an affordable price to another low-income buyer.

“The Franklin Regional Council of Governments was aware of a number of towns and communities that were struggling with dealing with abandoned properties,” Larose said. “There was a desire among some of the regional planners, as well as certainly the city of Greenfield, to have some of these properties become affordable, and that’s where we came in.”

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According to data collected by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, the median single-family home sale price in Franklin County rose by 44% between 2019 and 2023.

“In the past few years, we have seen home sale prices rise much faster than household incomes,” RDI Executive Director Gina Govoni said in a statement. “A family of four with an annual income of $80,000, for instance, will struggle to find a home in their price range that does not need costly renovations.”

The house is now being cleared of asbestos, and RDI will begin the reconstruction process on Thursday, May 16, with a groundbreaking ceremony that will be attended by Housing Secretary Ed Augustus. It’s estimated that the project will be completed sometime this winter.

Since 1991, RDI has created more than 100 opportunities for affordable home ownership in the county, including Wisdom Way Solar Village in Greenfield, which was completed in 2012. Larose said RDI plans to take on similar projects in the future.

“We are looking for other properties and to partner with other communities on this type of a project because we know it’s a need,” she said. “The home sale prices have just increased by such a large amount in the last few years. So we have a lot of folks who normally would have been able to afford purchasing a home in Franklin County, maybe pre-pandemic, that now are priced out. We want to try to help meet that need.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.