WITH House slide show 157Construct began in the late 1960s as a local study group of clergy and lay persons that met to examine south Berkshire County community issues. Group members soon identified affordable housing as a critical need. Amid the prosperity and singular culture of the Berkshires, it was clear that affordable housing was beyond the reach of many residents and workers, especially minorities.

By 1970, the group had incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit under the name of Construct Inc. The organization quickly focused on buying and improving rundown properties and, at no profit, renting units to low-income tenants and selling houses to first-time homeowners.

Over the next decade, Construct’s name increasingly became synonymous with help for housing in the region.

In 1989, Cara Davis arrived at Construct with a vision for comprehensive transitional shelter programs for people who were homeless or in need.

Together with the Board, staff and volunteers, she launched a range of integrated services for homeless families and individuals designed to achieve twin strategic goals: immediate emergency aid and long-term self-sufficiency.

To implement that vision, in the mid-1990s, Construct began acquiring properties around the region in which homeless families and individuals could live for up to a year while they worked on any underlying factors that contributed to their homelessness.

In 1999, Construct purchased a beautifully renovated building on Mahaiwe St., a former synagogue, to house its offices and also provide some transitional housing units. The organization continued to acquire and renovate houses, including one for single young men and another house for single young women.

Over the next few years, as affordable housing stock became ever more scarce throughout Berkshire County, Construct took creative and bold action to preserve and increase the area’s housing stock. For instance, Construct established the Affordable Housing Stabilization Fund, a revolving loan fund that helps local housing development projects defray planning costs until construction can be approved.

To date, Construct has been instrumental in two such developments, both preservation projects. In 2001, a nine-unit building in Great Barrington came onto the market for the first time in two decades. With Construct’s support, it was purchased and renovated without displacing its low-income tenants. In 2003, Construct helped to purchase and renovate two duplexes in Lee. These two family units would have otherwise moved into the private rental market.

The next project was even more ambitious. Partnering with the Stockbridge Land Trust and the Stockbridge Housing Authority, Construct acquired an 18-acre parcel along Route 102. The new 30-unit mixed-income project, called Pine Woods, was completed in 2005, and has been recognized as a statewide model for well-designed and effective rural affordable housing by the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA).

Looking ahead, Construct Inc. continues to honor and harness the power and skills of concerned and motivated individuals for a caring community.

We invite you to help us eradicate homelessness in the Southern Berkshire region.