Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik named ‘Housing Hero’
Mayor Michael A. Tautznik, left, was one of three people honored with Housing Hero awards by the Massachusetts Housing Partnership. Pictured to his right are state Undersecretary for Housing Aaron Gornstein and fellow winners Nancy Tavernier of the Acton Community Housing Corp. and David Hedison, executive director of the Chelmsford Housing Authority. PHOTO COURTESY OF MASSACHUSETTS HOUSING PARTNERSHIP. Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — Mayor Michael A. Tautznik may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but state affordable housing advocates say he is a hero.
Tautznik was one of the three state residents to be named a “Housing Hero” by the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, a public nonprofit that works with the state government to help increase affordable housing in Massachusetts.
“It was quite a surprise,” Tautznik said of the honor. “I’m proud that our community has been able to have success with affordable housing. I’m happy to be a part of that success.”
He received the honor at the Housing Partnership’s annual training institute in Devens on Wednesday after being nominated by the members of the Easthampton Housing Partnership. Jackie Brousseau-Pereira, chairwoman of the city’s Housing Partnership, said Tautznik has always been very supportive of the partnership’s work for affordable housing.
“He’s given us a lot of latitude to do our work and make recommendations and listened to what we recommended,” she said. She quickly named the various affordable housing projects he has championed over the years, whether that meant speaking at city meetings or penning letters of support for financial assistance. “Those were all things that were made easier because of his support.”
The Massachusetts Housing Partnership has awarded Housing Hero honors for the last three years in three categories, according to a press release. Tautznik was the recipient in the category for elected officials, Nancy Tavernier of Acton in the volunteer category and David Hedison of the Chelmsford Housing Authority in the housing authority employee category.
Former Northampton mayor Clare Higgins received the first Housing Hero award given to an elected official in 2011.
At the award ceremony Wednesday, state Undersecretary for Housing Aaron Gornstein praised Tautznik for his “unwavering support of affordable housing even in the face of local opposition,” according to the press release.
Tautznik has supported numerous affordable housing projects in the city in his 17 years in office. Perhaps the best known is the $11.5 million Parsons Village project, which aims to build 38 units of affordable rental housing on a 4.3-acre parcel at 69 Parsons St. The Valley Community Development Corp. is likely to break ground on the project by late 2013 or early 2014.
“He’s been a supporter of Parsons Village from the beginning, from the first community meetings,” Valley CDC Executive Director Joanne Campbell said. “And a number of times when things got a little hairy, he continued to support it.”
The project faced numerous setbacks since it was first proposed in 2010. Neighbors organized in opposition at meetings and in court, the Planning Board voted it down and the City Council considered revoking Community Preservation Act funding promised to the project before the Zoning Board of Appeals eventually approved it in September 2012.
“I think it was important to have a leader at the head supporting it and not backing down,” Campbell said. “I think it made some in town more inclined to support it.”
She added that Tautznik’s support of affordable housing extended beyond Parsons Village.
He spoke in favor of Community Preservation Act funds being earmarked to support the proposed $15 million Cottage Square project, which will transform the former Dye Works Building at 15 Cottage St. into 50 units of affordable housing. He also supported a multi-step development off Button Road where, among other houses, nine single-family affordable homes are being built or are occupied.
After the city cleaned up a contaminated Everett Street property in 2006, Tautznik suggested it be sold to a developer who would build at least one unit of affordable housing. But in 2011, when there were no buyers, he advocated that the City Council put the property up for sale for $1 to attract nonprofit housing organizations. It worked, and Habitat for Humanity plans to put in four affordable single-family homes. The city also gave an acre of land on East Street to Habitat for Humanity in 2010 to build two homes.
But Tautznik said that a lot of the credit for the city’s encouragement of affordable housing should go to the group that nominated him for the Housing Hero award: the Easthampton Housing Partnership. It’s a volunteer committee that proposes and carries out affordable housing strategies and helps advise government officials and agencies about potential projects.
“We have great people in the Housing Partnership that have been supportive of all this activity,” he said. “I think we’ve established Easthampton as a community that sees the importance of having housing for everyone.”
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.