The major projects of the Affordable Housing Trust, and the Coalition of which the League is a member, were continuing to advocate for proposed projects on Northampton Road and the combined project at the East Street School and Belchertown Road. There were also some forums on specific issues and some possible future locations for affordable housing projects.
Belchertown Road and East Street School
Wayfinders has been chosen as the developer for this combined project. The Housing Trust is hoping to schedule a public forum for community input on this project in September.
East Gables on Northampton Road
Ground has been broken and construction is underway. There will be 28 small studio apartments.
In the fall, the League, Amherst Neighbors, and the Affordable Housing Trust sponsored a forum on future needs for housing in Amherst. There is a severe housing shortage overall. Two main factors have caused the general problem: population changes that create greater demand for housing and a lack of housing production. Locally, we have an additional factor: the growth of UMass enrollment over many years without corresponding growth in housing for the students brought to the area.
Also, the population of Amherst, like the Commonwealth overall, is “graying”; Massachusetts has the highest percentage in the country of single adults living alone, and 62% of them have incomes that don’t meet their needs. Given economic disparities, the issue is worst for people of color. The most frequent reason for calls to the Amherst Senior Center was for people no longer able to live independently who were looking for programs or places to help them. Eighty three percent of elderly who need help get it from their families. We also learned that nationally, the fastest growing segment of the homeless population is people 62 years old or older. The local homeless shelter, Craig’s Doors, served 49 people age 62 and older in the past four years; 11 of these people were 70 or older (the oldest was 78). People suggested the town should develop a project for independent living seniors, possibly along West Pomeroy Lane at the former Hickory Ridge Golf Course.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is hosting a series of forums on the future housing needs for older adults in many communities in our region. One May 25 there was a forum about people’s preferences for housing, and the difficulties in finding housing. There was general agreement that there isn’t enough housing for people who live here and want to down-size or live in single story buildings, and what does exist is too expensive. Future forums will concentrate on related issues, including transportation.
The Amherst Affordable Housing Trust presented a forum on planning for and issues about creating housing for truly low-income people. A site has been found for a permanent shelter for homeless people, and there is a search for a site for “transitional” housing. Neither site has been publicly revealed. There is also a program to develop pathways to affordable homeownership opportunities. It is hoped that funding from the American Rescue Plan Act can be used for some of these goals, but there is no where near enough funding to do all of them (or perhaps even one of them, completely).
The role of the League
As you can tell, people are working on housing issues, and creatively looking for solutions to problems. The League has steadfastly supported projects when they come to public meetings or seek funding; however we are not really involved in developing the ideas or projects. If anyone would like to learn more about how they could get involved, please contact me.