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The Berkshires

Williamstown applies for grant to redevelop land of low-income housing

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Albany/HV: Williamstown applies for grant to redevelop land of low-income housing
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Williamstown wants to buy some low-income housing and redevelop it. It's an area that was hit hard last summer by Irene. As YNN's Madeleine Rivera explains, people who live there now say they don't know what to expect.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- "I feel devastated. I feel like they're ripping my heart out," said Linda Bell, a resident at The Spruces Mobile Home Park.

She's one of the many residents who are shocked to learn the town might buy their land.

"Time and time again, Williamstown told all of us down here, they're going to help us stay here, they're going to do everything they can, they do not want us to leave. And now, we're losing our homes," said Bell.

The city is waiting to hear whether they've been approved for a $6 million grant from FEMA to buy the land from Morgan Management. Some of the money would be used to demolish and redevelop the park. Replacement housing will be built for displaced residents. Residents will also get some money to relocate.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Peter Fohlin, town manager.

Spruces was badly hit by Irene last year. The amount of the grant that FEMA will give is based on the value of the property. The town manager says the pressure is on to buy the property before another natural disaster strikes.

"If we didn't take this opportunity and we thought better of it after the next hurricane, the maximum grant would be $900,000, which is not enough money to do anything," said Fohlin.

Before Irene happened, there were about 300 people living here. After Irene, a lot of people just ended up leaving. Still, for the 106 people who still live here, they say it's more than just a building, it's more than a property, it's a home.

"We're devastated. We don't know what to do. We don't know what to think anymore," said Bell.

Fohlin says no final decision has been made yet. FEMA's answer might come within the next 60 days.

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