William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

Grant Awarded: $30,000

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation builds stronger, more vibrant communities and improves the quality of life for all residents of Berkshire County, MA; Columbia County and northeast Dutchess County, NY; and northwest County, CT.

HOUSING is a public awareness campaign to enhance understanding of affordable housing as a critical element in the future success of our towns and villages. An influx of retirees and second-home owners is driving up the cost of housing — and driving out the families who grew up here, as well as younger citizens and families. There is a direct impact on local employers: schools can’t find teachers; banks can’t find tellers; hospitals can’t find nurses; volunteer fire fighters and ambulance services can’t find recruits. Working and middle class citizens are being moved out and our communities are becoming less economically diverse.

Affordable housing is a key issue on the agendas of most towns in the region, but public resistance to projects remains high. There are numbers of small housing projects currently in the works, but one Habitat for Humanity house a year is not a solution. New and innovative housing solutions are needed, but innovation cannot come in an environment of ignorance, apathy and self-interest. The HOUSING campaign is intended to create a more positive public environment for discussion of needs and future plans: simply put, to help rural villages and towns understand that housing is a critical part of sustainable communities.

The HOUSING awareness campaign will utilize posters and billboards and will directly reach a majority of the citizens in our region. Posters will be distributed as a newspaper insert in all three states (40,000); via occupant mailings through village post offices (30,000); and then through other parties and organizations (10,000). Printing of 11"x22" posters that fold-down for inserts or postal mailings is efficient: occupant mailings in rural post offices are highly effective, not requiring expensive postage or mailing lists. Billboards will be placed on two major highways that transcribe the region.