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Editorial: Mayor’s housing plan makes sense

Kudos to Mayor William Martin for seeing the bigger picture when it comes to two properties recently taken for back taxes. It’s a picture, in this case, that involves four families and a conscious desire to keep them from becoming homeless.

What the mayor wants is to involve the Greenfield Housing Authority to produce an outcome that is better for all involved.

Martin says he wants the GHA to help make sure the four families have a place to live while the buildings are being brought up to code, etc.

“We don’t want any more homeless folks in Greenfield. We have to look at these properties, which the town now owns because the previous owners lost them, but we also have to look at the human factor.”

Martin suggests that instead of the town owning them, the properties — one on Deerfield Street and the other at Laurel Street — be put into hands of GHA’s nonprofit affiliates to manage and, thus, leave them on the tax rolls.

Beyond receiving tax money, there are a couple of other reasons why the municipality doesn’t want to be in the landlord business. Having ownership of the buildings could set up a conflict of interest, given that the town is also the authority when it comes to building and health inspections. And the Greenfield Housing Authority is better equipped to manage properties, something it has been doing for decades, as well as tapping into resources to rehabilitate these properties.

As Martin said, “the housing authority will have access to grants that the town does not.” At the same time. Greenfield “... may actually be able to provide the housing authority with some block grant money, but cannot use its owns grants to hire someone to do the work.”

As for these particular properties, John P. Counter, GHA executive director, said it looks quite possible that the families living in the four-apartment building on Deerfield Street wouldn’t have to leave while the building was brought up to code. If, however, any of the three families had to move, the GHA would help find them a place.

This all makes sense, particularly for the people who call these properties home. And if this all comes together as anticipated, then it could a successful model for similar situations in the future.

“This could be a win-win-win situation for the town and its neighborhoods, the housing authority and the families living in the homes,” Martin said.

We agree.

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