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Low-Cost Housing Gets A Face-Lift Amid Pressures Of Gentrification

The new Live155 housing complex in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photo by Karen Brown for NEPR

The new Live155 housing complex in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photo by Karen Brown for NEPR

Cities in New England and elsewhere used to be dotted with SROs. That stands for single-room occupancy, a type of affordable housing often considered a last resort before homelessness.

Residents live in single rooms next to strangers, who all share a bathroom and kitchen.

This housing option has gradually disappeared in recent years. But advocates are trying to take the idea of SROs and give them an upgrade, so that even people who don’t have to live there might choose to do so.

For many years, in Northampton, Massachusetts, the most visible SRO was a low-rise building in the downtown called Northampton Lodging.

The former college dormitory was built in the 1960s and later converted into low-cost housing. By the time it closed, about 60 people lived in 100-square-foot rooms with thread-bare carpeting and an ancient electrical system. They shared bathrooms and kitchens — and very thin walls.

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