Forum on Housing in Amherst

October 25, 2017
7-9 p.m.
UUSA Social Hall, 121 N. Pleasant St.

Together with the Amherst Affordable Housing Trust, the League will cosponsor a public forum on Housing to be held on Wednesday, October 25, 7:00 p.m. in the UUSA Social Hall. This meeting follows a well-attended forum held in July of 2016 that focused on homelessness in Amherst. The housing needs of the community more generally were extensively documented in the 2013 Housing Production Plan, which, along with other more recent studies, is available at the web site of the Housing and Sheltering Committee. But the focus of the upcoming meeting will be on solutions, not problems.

The central presentation will be a panel hosted by the nonprofit Valley Community Development Corporation's proposal to develop "micro-apartments" in Amherst. Valley CDC operates several such buildings in Northampton. In addition to living quarters, these developments also supply services that enable the residents to cope with mental and physical disabilities and increase their quality of life. A microapartment (also called, less intuitively, an "enhanced Single Room Occupancy" or SRO unit) is a one-room, self-contained living space designed to accommodate a sitting space, sleeping space, bathroom and kitchenette for a single resident in 150 to 350 sq. ft. Typically half of Valley CDC's units are reserved for homeless or very low income applicants, while the other half are rented to individuals whose income falls below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

The meeting will open with an review of the what the town has been doing since the 2016 forum and conclude with a series of facilitated round tables. In addition to continuing the discussion about microapartments, other possible round table topics include preventing homelessness through tenant protection services and other means; zoning and other changes that would help to leverage community resources to maximize affordable housing; and community land trusts and other solutions to the shortage of housing in Amherst for families near or even above the AMI.

At its FY2017 Annual Town Meeting, Amherst amended the Trust bylaw (passed in 2014) to expand the Board of Trustees from seven to nine members and incorporate the Housing and Sheltering Committee’s purpose and responsibilities. As of August 24, the Board has finally reached its full complement of members. As reported in the Gazette on August 24, the Housing Trust also recently submitted a draft five-year strategic plan to the Amherst Select Board. So things are happening! Join us on October 25 to learn more.