Report charts rental housing gaps, costs in Amherst
AMHERST — After years of hand-wringing over issues with Amherst’s rental housing stock, a new report offers details.
Called the Town of Amherst Housing Production Plan, the 145-page document explains why the Amherst market is so tight and rents are so high.
The report’s writers looked into why families are leaving the area and what will happen if student populations continue to grow without more housing development on campus and in town.
Here are data highlights from the report showing the state of the Amherst housing market. It was completed in March by the Amherst Housing and Shelter Committee. The full report is available online at the town’s website.
∎ Housing development has not kept up with population growth: From 1960 to 2010, the Amherst population grew by 24,101 people, or 176 percent; housing increased by 5,264 units, or 125 percent.
∎ Rental housing creation decreased by nearly 13 percent between 1980 and 2010.
∎ In 2010, half of the rental units in Amherst were being leased for more than $1,000 a month; 25 percent of the units were priced at more than $1,500.
∎ Of the 9,711 housing units in Amherst in 2010, 54 percent were renter-occupied and 46 percent were owner-occupied. In Hampshire County, 66 percent of units were owner-occupied that year.
∎ In 2010, about 66 percent of the town’s rental units were occupied by students, 23 percent by families and 10 percent by senior citizens.
∎ Vacancy rates for both rental and ownership housing were well below 5 percent in 2010 — a sign that Amherst has a tight housing market. In town, the vacancy rates were 3.5 percent for rentals and 1.4 percent for homeowners. Statewide, those figures were a 6.5 percent vacancy rate for rentals and 1.5 percent for homeowners.
∎ Young families are leaving town: The number of adults ages 25 to 44 decreased from 7,323 in 1990 to 4,009 by 2010 — a 45 percent drop. The number of school-aged children dropped by 10 percent over this time.
∎ In 2010, 7,357 university and college students lived off-campus in Amherst. That same year, residents between the ages of 18 and 24 comprised more than half of Amherst’s total population, compared to the 22 percent this age bracket accounts for countywide. UMass plans to add about 1,900 students to its undergraduate enrollment by 2020.
The town anticipates hundreds of these students will live off-campus.