Rural Housing Summit Highlights Unique Needs of Rural Communities

MACDC joined ninety leaders from rural communities across the Commonwealth at the Massachusetts Housing Partnership’s Rural Housing Summit on December 18 in Worcester. MHP convened the Summit as the culmination of a year-long effort to examine rural housing challenges, and explore policy and program options for addressing them.

The Summit was highlighted by opening remarks from DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein, who cited numerous examples of successful rural housing developments, whose sponsors persevered despite the challenges associated with limited resources and high infrastructure costs. A panel led by Representative Steve Kulik and Senator Dan Wolf spoke about some of the broader economic challenges faced by rural areas in employment, transportation, education and health care.

The Summit featured the release of a white paper that included six policy recommendations to help rural communities with their housing and economic challenges; the paper’s creation was spearheaded by a 19-person steering committee representing rural communities from Cape Cod to Western Massachusetts. The key legislative recommendation is to create a State Office of Rural Policy, to function as a research and policy clearinghouse for rural issues. The paper also includes program recommendations, including the recommendation to create a small-scale rental production program for projects of less than 20 units, with a set-aside for rural areas.

Don Bianchi of MACDC, as well as the Directors of several rural CDCs, served on the steering committee, and MACDC will continue to work with MHP to implement the recommendations in the white paper, and to advocate for our rural members.