GREAT BARRINGTON -- Selectboard Member and Housing Trust Chair Bill Cooke and the Selectboard are pleased to announce the Great Barrington Affordable Housing Trust Fund is now offering Down Payment Assistance Loans to qualified buyers.

Less than a year after it first formed, the Trust now has a total of $50,000 that it can lend to qualified first-time home buyers. The loans will be interest-free deferred payment grants, which only need to be repaid when the house is sold.

Under the program, down payment assistance loans worth up to 5 percent of the purchase price of a home -- with a maximum of $15,000 -- will be given on a first come, first serve basis to buyers who pre-qualify through a participating bank.

Applicants do not need to live in Great Barrington, but the home being purchased must be located in Great Barrington and must be used as the buyer's principal residence. Applicants also must not own any other residential properties.

"I'm extremely excited to see this program launch and help make the dream of home ownership a reality for as many people as possible," Trust Fund Chair and Selectboard Member Bill Cooke said. "This would not have been possible without the support of our whole community, and I want to thank residents, the Community Preservation Committee, banks and town leaders who worked to make this happen."

Berkshire Bank, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Lee Bank, The Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, Salisbury Bank and Village Mortgage are all participating in the program.

The funding for the program was made possible by Community Preservation Act funds, and the Community Preservation Committee has recommended an additional $100,000 of CPA funds be made available for this program and a housing rehabilitation program. If approved by Town Meeting in the spring, those additional funds will be available starting on July 1.

The Trust creates a new avenue for the Town of Great Barrington to increase access to affordable housing amid rising housing costs nationwide and an increase in demand for seasonal housing locally.

For more information about the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, including details on how to qualify for the program, visit gbhousing.org

(press release sent to WSBS from Great Barrington Town Manager, Jennifer Tabakin for online and on-air use)