New Shires Housing director excited to move projects along, seeks to form new partnerships

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BENNINGTON — The new executive director of Shires Housing said she hopes to form new partnerships with community groups and is excited to see future housing projects come to fruition.

Stephanie Lane took over as head of the non-profit affordable housing organization on Nov. 7.

"I'm very excited about the future for Shires and think that I'm here at a very critical time in the organization's growth," Lane, a New York resident, told the Banner Monday.

As executive director, she will be responsible for Shires' development projects, overseeing the property management activities, fundraising, fostering existing community partnerships and helping to create new ones, she said.

She said that before she took her new job with Shires, she worked with Housing Resources of Columbia County in New York for seven years and served as executive director for five of those years. Lane said the organization, which also focused on affordable housing, was in a good financial position and that she felt it was a good time for her to seek other opportunities.

Lane replaces John Broderick, who was hired in 2009 and left in May for a job with LeadingAge New York, a group that advocates for homecare providers for the elderly. Blair Sebastian served in the interim.

Shires Housing, once known as the Regional Affordable Housing Corporation, is a private, non-profit housing corporation. It's mission, according to its website, "is to provide safe, decent and perpetually affordable housing options for limited income residents of Bennington County." It currently operates 225 rental units in the county — 36 of them in Manchester, 38 in Arlington, and 151 in Bennington.

Lane said one of Shires Housing's strengths is its property management operations and she spoke highly of energy efficiency upgrades, among others, at its properties.

She said she is interested in meeting with community groups, such as health and education agencies, and coordinate to bring resources to residents of Shires Housing.

"I think you'll see that more and more with housing agencies, because it's not just housing anymore," she said. "It's about quality of life."

Lane said there is stigma attached to the concept of affordable housing, used to describe housing, rental or owner-occupied, that is affordable no matter what one's income is. She said that she has worked in other communities where proposed projects have drawn criticism and acknowledged that, in Bennington, residents have spoken out against Shires projects.

But there's a need in Bennington for the type of housing her organization provides, she said. The town has a high percentage of renters and a home ownership rate that's less than other communities in which she's worked, she said. She also pointed to the town's high poverty rate — over 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

She said everyone deserves "high quality housing that is affordable."

"Housing is the cornerstone for everything," she said. "It affects education, health, and families."

One project the organization aims at completing is the Monument View Apartments, a $5.5 million project set to be built off Eden Way between South Street and Silver Street on land once slated for a condominium development. The project, which would create 26 units of housing, is in Act 250 review.

Another project is expected to soon break ground. The "Bennington Historical Rehabilitation Project," a $5 million project, will upgrade 26 rental units across six properties Shires already owns. The buildings to be renovated are on Carrigan Lane, Safford Street, Pleasant Street, and School Street in Bennington.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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