1. During the past year the Select Board included the following in its priorities for long range planning for the Town Manager: “Supporting the preservation, maintenance and creation of housing that is safe, decent, and affordable for low- and moderate-income individuals and families”. Do you support continuing to make this a Town priority?
I support this town priority. Creating and maintaining a diverse housing supply is critical for the social and economic viability of the Amherst community. Past town-commissioned studies have consistently pointed to the need for housing across all income levels and populations - from affordable rental housing, housing to support those coming out of homelessness, and moderate-income housing to encourage young professionals and families to be a part of our community. Adequate and diverse housing options need to exist to encourage businesses to locate to Amherst and to support those that are already here. Young professionals and families will not stay in or locate to Amherst if they cannot find affordable and decent housing options. The Town of Amherst commissioned its Housing Production Plan in 2012 that stated the town goal of creating 200 rental units that prioritize families earning incomes at 30% and 50% of the Area Median Income between 2013-2018 (Source: Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, August 28, 2012), and even though we have seen several new developments occur in town during this time frame we have not yet met this goal. Supporting the preservation, maintenance and creation of housing that is safe, decent, and affordable for low- and moderate-income individuals and families must remain a priority for our community.
In addition, I would look at innovative solutions such as Private Public partnerships that allow UMass land to be leased out to private developers for student housing. That would free up off-campus housing for other populations. UMass Boston and Northeastern are examples for such partnerships.
2. The Trust anticipates needing the support and/or approval of the Town Council in the following three areas during the coming calendar year:
- Release of an RFP to allow a small, affordable housing development on the site of the East Street School, which would require that the Town sell the property to a successful bidder at nominal cost.
- Support for the development of studio apartments for low income individuals (less than 80% AMI), some of whom would be homeless.
- Development of a 40R district within Amherst that would allow for denser development than is otherwise now allowed by Town zoning bylaws.
If you are elected to the Town Council, do you believe that you could support these initiatives? What reservations might you have about these?
I support creative and appropriate development initiatives to increase the supply of housing for the Amherst community. We have seen from recent approved projects that increased density can allow for our community affordable housing goals to be met. Encouraging mixed income and mixed-use developments in areas designated by the town’s Master Plan will allow for a diverse mix of housing to serve those at a range of incomes. Amherst has been a leader in using new tools to encourage affordable housing development. In 2016, Amherst adopted an affordable housing tax incentive which was the first of its kind in the Commonwealth. 40R is a tool that has been successfully used in several Massachusetts communities to create mixed income and mixed-use developments in or adjacent to commercial centers — with careful planning by our town staff, boards and community members I am sure that we can craft a 40R district that will support our community goals. The town has an opportunity to help encourage affordable housing development by selling its underutilized parcels in appropriate locations a nominal price to developers who specialize in creating this type
I support creating a range of housing options that can serve as many as possible and would look carefully at plans that limit housing to only one type of housing unit style unless that project was also offering specialized services to support a specific population, such as supportive housing created to serve homeless individuals. Affordable housing is needed for both individuals and families and that requires a range
of unit sizes.
3. The Amherst seasonal shelter under the management of Craig’s Doors has frequently experienced threats to its funding in the past few years. As a member of Town Council, what could you do to assure future funding, and what other efforts to assist individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness do you think the Town should support?
Amherst has prided itself on being inclusive and diverse and this pride should extend to economic diversity. I support the goals detailed in the Housing Trust Strategic Plan. We need a comprehensive approach to serve those who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. We also need to prioritize funding for the organizations that provide services to support the homeless people’s needs to be an integral part of this solution to ensure
that they will be successful in staying in their new homes.
We can also look at our existing housing stock to assess what existing units could be appropriate to serve the homeless - but again appropriate supportive services to help those placed in these units to succeed in their new homes would be needed. The Town can work with the local organizations who support the homeless be competitive for funding for the subsidies (rental and service) that would be required to pay and support
those in this housing.
I see addressing the limited hours and seasonality of our existing shelter as a key to providing better services to not only those who are currently homeless but those who are at risk of homelessness. Craig’s Doors is only open during the evenings during the winter, but the homeless need support services and shelter all year long — and not just during the evening hours. I am curious why Craig’s Doors is not applying for CDBG funds. This is a complicated issue and I still have a lot to learn about the work being done to serve our homeless, but I am confident that we as a community can succeed in meeting the needs of our most vulnerable.