Brewster Receives ‘Housing Hero,’ ‘Housing Choice’ Awards

by Rich Eldred

BREWSTER – The town last week received the Housing Hero Award from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership in Worcester at the organization’s Housing Institute event.

The award honors work the town has done for affordable housing, but it received something better the same day at the same event. Brewster was designated a Housing Choice Community along with Springfield and Woburn by Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities Ed Agustus. That award comes with benefits.

“The Housing Choice designation does enable the town to obtain more grants and opportunities, and it also provides extra points to obtain grants,” said Brewster Housing Coordinator Jill Scalese. “It will enable the town to be eligible for certain grants specific for Housing Choice communities and building standing for additional grants. There’s up to $500,000 in funding through the program.”

“It ensures a number of grant programs the state has that are exclusive to Housing Choice communities once they achieve that designation,” noted Kevin Connor of the Department of Housing and Livable Communities. “They’ve had some achievement the prior five years and are now eligible to participate in programs specific to Housing Choice communities with further incentives to housing development and to develop infrastructure improvements that are supportive of housing projects, like sewerage.”

This year’s grants were awarded in December, he said. Locally Provincetown, which is a Housing Choice Community, received $20,000 last year to design sidewalks and bike lanes connected to workforce housing. Brewster is considering workforce housing for the bay property.

“There’s a housing shortage across the state and these extra funds are to incentivize towns and to support communities that have already done the hard work for residents,” he said.

The application process for grants under the program for this year has already started, and the next round of grants should be awarded in the fall.

Obtaining the Housing Choice designation was a lengthy process Scalese said.

“The town had to provide documentation for how many housing units were produced in town the past five years as well as meet different housing strategies set by the state,” she said. “For example, having an affordable housing trust and at least a 3 percent increase in new rental units over the past five years.”

Brewster also had to demonstrate it complied with seven “best practices.” Those included having an accessory dwelling unit bylaw, a housing trust, Community Preservation Act funds spent on housing, 50 town staff members (including committee members) attending the Housing Institute programs, approval of comprehensive permit projects (Spring Rock on Millstone Road and Habitat for Humanity on Phoebe Way, in this case), an approved, certified housing production plan, and documentation that the plan was being implemented.

“It is exciting,” Scalese said. “This is something the town has been working towards to drive an increase in funding opportunities, which is a positive for the community.”

The designation will last for five years. Brewster can now receive special consideration for nine different programs such as Complete Streets, Green Communities or Mass Works projects.

The Housing Hero award was given for Brewster’s efforts over the years to facilitate affordable housing projects. The award cited the Affordable Housing Trust, the housing production plan and use of Community Preservation Act funds, the local housing partnership and Brewster’s “incredibly dedicated municipal staff who work tirelessly to help create safe homes in the community.”

They also noted the town’s work to provide housing at 212 Yankee Drive, 11 Sean Circle and Brewster Woods.

Other awards went to the Charles River Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Greg Reibman, Braintree Town Councilor Meredith Boericke and Abundant Housing Massachusetts.

Brewster select board member Amanda Bebrin received the Housing Hero Award in 2023 on behalf of the Community Development Partnership on Cape Cod.