Healey praised, pressed on housing: $4B proposal hailed at Amherst roundtable as UMass asked to do more

Staff Writer
Published: 11/2/2023 5:59:17 PM

AMHERST — Even as policies, programs and spending included in Gov. Maura Healey’s $4 billion Affordable Homes Act are being strongly supported by Amherst officials as a means of ramping up housing production, the governor is being advised that pressures on the town’s housing stock could be eased if the University of Massachusetts housed more students on campus.

During a roundtable discussion at East Gables, a 28-apartment passive solar building developed by Valley Community Development that is Amherst’s newest affordable housing, Healey and Ed Augustus, the state’s secretary of Housing and Livable Communities, were largely complimented on the strategies in the bond bill.

But John Hornik, a longtime housing affordability advocate and former member of the town’s Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, said rents in town, and the dire situation for housing, would be helped if UMass had more dormitories.

“The governor and secretary must make this an attractive possibility for the university,” Hornik said.

Reducing that pressure on housing is also essential for Carol Lewis, who co-chairs the trust and advocated for both pushing UMass and providing state funding for smaller affordable housing projects.

“Students want the houses. People who live here want the houses,” Lewis said.

East Gables is an illustration of the demand, with 501 applications received for the lottery, or “a striking number,” said Laura Baker, Valley CDC’s real estate development director.

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