Amherst eyes affordable housing project

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2020 9:01:06 AM

AMHERST — Amherst may seek a developer next spring to build around 70 apartments for low- and moderate-income residents in the East Amherst village center.

Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek told the Town Council Monday that the proposed acquisition of three Belchertown Road parcels, using a combination of $600,000 in Community Preservation Act money and $225,000 from the Amherst Affordable Housing Trust, could be bundled with the town-owned East Street School property for an affordable housing project. 

“We feel like it’s an excellent opportunity for the town to move forward in partnership with the trust,” Ziomek said.

The Town Council will make decisions early in the new year on whether to acquire the Belchertown Road parcels, totaling 2.6 acres, after referring the matter for review to the Finance Committee and Community Resources Committee.

The Belchertown Road site could accommodate a 13,000 square foot building and sufficient parking for 40 apartments. Ziomek said it is important to get a project into the state pipeline for what could be an $8 to $10 million investment by the state.

Initially, the plan would also call for redeveloping the East Street School site. An earlier request for proposals for that location only yielded one response, which was rejected by the town.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said combining the two parcels into one project would likely yield better results. “What they’ve found out is these projects (individually) are too small for a developer,” Bockelman said.

Housing Trust Chairman John Hornik said Amherst has a major lack of affordable housing and has built less than 50 units in the last five years, even with a Valley Community Development project on Northampton Road recently permitted.

Even so, the town still exceeds the state’s mandate of having 10% of dwellings as part of the subsidized housing inventory. Currently, 1,211 of 9,621 housing units in Amherst, or 12.59%, qualify. 

Hornik said any development will likely to be a combination of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, though that would be determined by the responses received.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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