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Gerry Weiss: Time to take Echo Village by eminent domain

  • Echo Village Apartments at 30 Gatehouse Rd. in Amherst.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Echo Village Apartments at 30 Gatehouse Rd. in Amherst.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • A felt quilt with children's names hangs in the Family Outreach Center near Echo Village Apartments in Amherst. The center helped tenants at the apartments receive various resources and will be moving locations since most of the families have now been evicted by the new owner of the complex.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    A felt quilt with children's names hangs in the Family Outreach Center near Echo Village Apartments in Amherst. The center helped tenants at the apartments receive various resources and will be moving locations since most of the families have now been evicted by the new owner of the complex.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Echo Village Apartments at 30 Gatehouse Rd. in Amherst.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A felt quilt with children's names hangs in the Family Outreach Center near Echo Village Apartments in Amherst. The center helped tenants at the apartments receive various resources and will be moving locations since most of the families have now been evicted by the new owner of the complex.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

To the editor:

There is a housing crisis deepening in Amherst. We’ve all been reading about the student housing problems and how that situation is causing local and out-of town landlords to buy up any existing homes they can and convert them into student apartments. One of the outcomes of that practice occurs when affordable housing is either bought in order to house students at a much higher profit than with the existing affordable housing status or affordable housing units are legally transformed into “market rate” units.

The purchase of Echo Village by the Cherewatti family this year is an example of the former practice and the conversion of Rolling Green by the owners (a corporation headquartered in Chicago) the latter. The result: 66 units that have been lived in by families who can’t afford the market rate in Amherst are becoming unaffordable to them.

And what happens to these neighbors of ours, many of whom are families with children in our school system? They have to leave Amherst because there aren’t enough affordable units here. The Cherewattis have raised the rents at Echo Village and families are leaving. Those that haven’t left are faced with eviction. Two such evictions by the Cherewattis were recently denied by the Housing Court, but that action will only buy the tenants time.

I applaud the efforts by our town manager, John Musante, and the assistant town manager, Dave Ziomek, to try to save these units. Thus far, their efforts have been unsuccessful. It is time to let the Cherewatti family know what kind of town we want to be, and to let town management know that we support their efforts.

I want to live in a town that values economic justice, where the lives of our neighbors are valued more than the profits of a few. If I were still on the Select Board, I would call for the taking of Echo Village by eminent domain. I believe such an action qualifies as in the best interests of the town.

Gerry Weiss

Amherst

The writer was a member of the Select Board from 2004 to 2010.

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