Amherst Affordable Housing Trust

1. The Comprehensive Town Housing Policy calls for the development of 250 new affordable housing units for low-income individuals and families, including persons who do not have housing, persons of color, and persons who are older adults (over 60 years of age).  As a member of Town Council, would you support this goal and what would you do to assure implementation of this goal and others included in the draft plan

Response:  I am pleased that the Town Council voted to adopt the Comprehensive Housing Policy on September 25, 2021.  This is an outstanding document that includes 5 goals with suggested strategies.  Since being sworn in as part of the first Town Council in December 2018, my votes include: Supporting (1) the development of 132 Northampton Road; (2) transfer of the East Street School to the AAMHT; (3) Purchase of the Belchertown Properties for affordable housing; and (4) various affordable housing projects funded by CPA and the first round of COVID federal funds for such needed areas like rent relief.  I will continue to support these types of projects and programs that support this goal to create new affordable housing units for low-income individuals and families as I continue on the Town Council.  I also hope that we will broaden this goal to include homeownership for low-income individuals and families.

2.  Town-owned land can be an important resource in the development of affordable housing because the costs are reduced by employing this property.  The Amherst Affordable Municipal Housing Trust is considering plan for a low-income, homeownership development on Strong Street, which is Town-owned, and a rental development for older adults at Hickory Ridge Golf Course, which is expected to become Town-owned property in the next two months.  As a member of Town Council, would you support using these properties for affordable housing, and what would you do to assure implementation?

Response: I am in total support of the use of the Strong Street, town-owned land for the development of homeownership opportunities for low-income individuals and families.  With regard to Hickory Ridge Golf Course, I am very interested in hearing the results of the Master Plan that will be developed for Hickory Ridge.  That may very well include a recommendation for the development of rental opportunities for older adults at Hickory Ridge Golf Course, but I think we owe it to the residents of Amherst to hear all of the possible and exciting ideas that will come from that Master Planning process.

3.  For many years single family houses in Amherst have been purchased by entrepreneurs who convert these to student rentals.  This has gradually eliminated many “starter” family homes for new families coming into Town.  As a member of Town Council, what would you do to change this direction?

Response: The issue of single family houses being purchased by entrepreneurs and converting them to student rentals is an extraordinary problem in Amherst.  While there are several measures that may be taken to curb this trend let me just mention one. This is also true with people adding an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) to owner occupied homes.  In fact, when my husband and I first bought our home in Amherst it was only possible because it had and ADU on the lowest level which we continued to rent for at least 10 years after we purchased the home. 

While initially done to provide additional income to the owner, there was serious concern expressed during the Town Council meeting on October 4, 2021, that these homes are then sold and become two rental units instead of owner occupied.  Based upon that we have asked the Town Manager and staff to determine if we can require a deed restriction that will follow to the next owner requiring that one of the two units is owner occupied. 

One of my commitments during the next term of the Town Council is to recommend that we explore other legal ways that we can curb this trend and also add or amend our rental bylaws beyond noise and nuisance so that we can help create an ongoing and improved friendly relationship between students and other residents in our neighborhoods.  

4. The Town Council has adopted an ECAC goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.  Among the important elements of this would be weatherization and converting existing heating systems to more efficient systems that rely on heat pump technology, particularly for existing multi-unit buildings.  This is expected to improve the quality of heating, improve air quality, and reduce costs.  As a member of Town Council, would you support spending Town resources (e.g., American Rescue Plan funds) on meeting this goal, and what would you do to assure implementation?

Response:  I am in total support of the ECAC goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and hope we see specific state and federal monies to support the many aspects of reaching this goal.  As a member of Town Council I have supported the use of Town resources to purchase electric or hybrid vehicles where the technology has advanced sufficiently far to make the purchases viable (e.g., police cars, but not fire engines).  Regarding the use of American Rescue Plan funds for this purpose, my first priority is to cover lost income to the town in our various enterprise funds, such as water, sewer, and transportation.  And while the Town Manager has provided the Town Council with a broad array of possibilities, he is now seeking community input.  If items such as weatherization and converting existing heating systems are allowed and this resonates with the community over other priorities then I will support this.  However, the larger question is will I support spending Town resources on meeting this goal?  YES.  What would you do to assure implementation?  I have long advocated for a fund to support the net zero energy bylaw implementation as a “loan” fund that would be reimbursed with “savings” to the town by building more energy neutral buildings.  I could clearly see this type of fund also working to support weathererization and converting existing heating systems.