Groundbreaking on Amherst Habitat home set for spring

  • Habitat for Humanity duplex planned for North Amherst site. Bruce Coldham, FAIA

Staff Writer
Saturday, January 07, 2017

AMHERST — A duplex planned by Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity in North Amherst, which will provide two families an opportunity for affordable homeownership, will break ground next spring.

Megan McDonough, executive director for Habitat, said Dec. 30 that the Planning Board unanimously approved site plans for the project on a three-quarter-acre parcel on North Pleasant Street owned by the Amherst Community Land Trust.

“We hope to start construction in April, putting in the foundation, and raising the walls later in the spring,” McDonough said.

McDonough said the duplex will feature a one-story unit in the rear and a two-story unit in front, each with an attached shed. The duplex is being built next to the farmhouse where apprentices at the Simple Gifts Farm are housed, and across the street from an entrance to Puffton Village apartments. The homes should be ready for occupancy by summer 2018.

The project, she said, is a unique partnership between Habitat, the land trust, which will enter a 99-year ground lease with the future owners, and the North Amherst Community Farm, which leases nearly 38 acres to Simple Gifts. North Amherst Community Farm’s board chairman, Bruce Coldham, is also the architect for the Habitat project.

The Amherst land trust was able to acquire the property for $113,600 with funding from private donors, a gift from the Interfaith Housing Corp. and public money from the town’s Community Preservation Act account.

The duplex is one of two projects for which Habitat is seeking families. The other is a single-family home to be built on Smith Street in Greenfield.

Habitat has scheduled information sessions in January and February. Families earning up to 60 percent of the area median income and interested in home ownership are strongly encouraged to attend these, McDonough said.

“It is an opportunity for an affordable home and an affordable mortgage,” McDonough said

The sessions will explain the selection criteria, the need to make mortgage payments of $700 to $1,100 each month and the requirement to participate in the construction of the home or other Habitat projects.

In Amherst, each unit will be built to Energy Star standards and designed to be accessible by someone in a wheelchair. Each home will have 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms. The sale price for each of the homes will be less than $139,900.

Habitat is also promoting the resale of a residence in Turners Falls, which will have wider eligibility.

The Amherst sessions will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 22 and 6 p.m. Feb. 9, both at the Jones Library, 43 Amity St. The Greenfield sessions take place at the Greenfield Public Library, 402 Main St., at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 and 10 a.m. Jan. 28.

The application deadline is Feb. 22, and applications can be picked up at Habitat’s offices at 140 Pine St., Florence, as well as at the Amherst Town Hall, 4 Boltwood Ave., and the Jones Library.

In addition to the three new units, a duplex at the Hawthorne Farm, 235 East Pleasant St., in Amherst, remains on track to be complete by next summer, McDonough said.

McDonough said the roof, siding and insulation are complete, with significant work yet to be done on the interior. Two families previously selected, and who will have contributed 250 hours of labor alongside volunteers from the community, are ready to move in when the duplex is finished.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.