Editorial: Turning empty buildings into affordable housing for vets a worthy idea

  • The former Poland and Streeter schools in Winchendon that may be converted into affordable housing for veterans. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

Published: 2/13/2020 9:22:07 AM
Modified: 2/13/2020 9:21:57 AM

The issues of affordable housing and veterans in need transcend county lines. And so we look to a promising proposal to address both in Worcester County as a viable undertaking for Franklin County.

The Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center is proposing to buy two closed school buildings in Winchendon and turn them into affordable housing for veterans.

The center hasn’t secured the money yet, but it should present a worthy undertaking to a possible funding source, one that would create 30 to 40 one-bedroom apartments for previously homeless veterans and those who meet certain income guidelines.

The town’s voters have already agreed to sell the former Poland and Streeter schools for use as veterans housing. Hopefully, they will approve this particular project. Feb. 10 was the deadline to submit.

As proposed by the Montachusett Veterans Outreach Center, the renovated buildings would be connected by one that would house such common spaces as a laundry. Elevators would be installed in the multi-level buildings.

Both school buildings were built in 1900, so the removal of hazardous materials would need to be addressed.

The center’s Executive Director Charlie Murphy explained to a reporter the potentially lengthy process to secure funding and complete construction.

“In a perfect world, between the permitting processes for the town, the state and federal government, and efforts to put the funding together, we would probably put shovel to the ground in about two years,” Murphy said.

Completion would be a few years away, but if that does happen, it would enable those of limited means who served in the military the opportunity to rent an affordable place to live.

We not only support this plan, we hope other agencies will be inspired. Consider the numerous empty buildings, schools or otherwise, in our area. Now, imagine them being converted into sound affordable housing.

That’s an idea worth pursuing.

Pledging support

In November, Greenfield voters gave a resounding yes to the city’s plan to build a $19.5 million library. For supporters, the approval process was a nail-biter with the City Council giving its OK in March, and then after a citizen’s petition, it was on the ballot of the Nov. 5 election.

Part of the pitch to voters was that the Greenfield Public Library Foundation would raise $2 million to pay for furniture and equipment for the new library, which is expected to be completed in 2023.

Prior to the city-wide vote, the foundation secured $800,000 in pledges. The campaign was halted pending the outcome of the city votes.

Now, the foundation has announced fundraising will resume.

Joe Ruggeri, the foundation’s vice president and a Greenfield Library Board of Trustees member, explains the money raised would lessen the burden to taxpayers. The state’s $9.38 million grant does not cover furnishings.

According to Ruggeri, the foundation has been receiving pledges and donations “almost on a daily basis.” He owes it to people being inspired by the community support demonstrated at the election.

But $1.2 million is a lot of money to raise.

Our message to those who supported having a new library in Greenfield: it’s time to step up and make your pledge.

To contact the foundation, email gplfoundation.info@gmail.com.


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