Affordable Housing for Amherst

The League supported two projects to add affordable housing in Amherst.

East Street School

This project to build between 15 and 36 rental units for low-income individuals and families at the site of the old East Street School has received approval and was put out for proposals to do the work. Unfortunately, no company wants to bid until the town does further research on the amount of hazardous materials in the existing building (mostly asbestos) and how much of the land is actually buildable (wetlands issues). Those issues have not been resolved yet.

132 Northampton Road

The League supported this project to build studio apartments in several forums. In June of 2013 we supported funding for the project from the Community Preservation Act. The letter in support stated:

The League of Women Voters has a long history of supporting policies and legislation that provide provisions for low-and-moderate income housing and a suitable living environment affordable for all. LWV of Amherst has carefully followed the development of this particular proposal. After several years of public meetings and forums, and an intense search for a suitable mixed-use location, we believe that the Valley Community Development Corporation’s project to create 28 studio-size units with related services, to provide stability of place to our lowest income individuals, the working poor, as a positive direction for local housing needs heretofore unavailable in Amherst.

The CPA voted in favor of the project. The Planning Board voted to recommend it, and the Town Council subsequently supported the project as well.

Valley Community Development continued to work on details of the proposal, making some modifications in response to neighbors’ concerns.

On March 30, 2020, the state issued an approval for the project to proceed. The next step is a hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals. That hearing is likely to be at the end of June or early in July, and it will be held over Zoom because of the Covid-19 virus.

Housing Forum

On November 4, 2019 the League co-sponsored a Housing Forum held at the Unitarian Church. There was a presentation about local efforts; then our state representative (Mindy Domb) and senator (Jo Comerford) spoke about proposed legislation and other state efforts. The participants then broke out into groups on various topics, including homelessness, Town housing policy, working on legislative action, and improving access to affordable rentals in Amherst.

Submitted by Elisa Campbell