Many benefits to pairing affordable housing, conservation
Sharon Farmer, member of the Affordable Housing Study committee and the Climate/Energy committee
Kudos to the Kestral Land Trust, the city of Easthampton, Mass Audubon, Community Builders, and the anonymous donor for moving forward with Growing Green: Easthampton, which will convert 53 acres of hayfield, meadow and riparian forest into an 11acre affordable housing project with as many as 90 units and a 42-acre plot of conservation land.
There are just so many social and natural benefits to pairing affordable housing with land conservation. First, many people with low incomes currently reside in urban “heat islands”: areas with too much asphalt and far too few trees. Moving into stable housing that is adjacent towell-conserved meadows and forest will improve the physical and mental health of the residents, thereby lowering medical costs both for the residents and for the insurance companies and publicly funded social service agencies that serve them.
Second, meadows and undisturbed woodland serve as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and thus helping us to fight climate change. Third, natural meadows and undisturbed woodland help prevent biodiversity loss. The combination of climate change and human impact on the land has caused widespread collapses among mammal populations, bird populations and among the insect populations that both feed our birds and pollinate our food. Preserving land with native wildflower meadows and undisturbed forest will go a long way toward helping to reverse those trends.
And fourth, undisturbed riparian woodland helps preserve the clean water that we all need to survive. Many thanks to all of the agencies and individuals who have made this project possible. And many thanks as well to Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition and the Land Trust Alliance for highlighting the benefits of pairing affordable housing projects with the conservation of our increasingly shrinking natural spaces.