Amherst and UMass are both responsible
November 29, 2021
The University of Massachusetts has a housing crisis. While we are all clear on this, there is still some debate on how to resolve it. The reality is that any solution is easier said than done. Is it above all for the university to provide more housing? Or should the town of Amherst and other neighboring towns contribute more? Where will the money and space come from? And how will we overcome the inevitable concerns of residents who have their own housing needs and do not want new housing to affect their quality of life?
The bottom line is that we need more housing. Currently, the university is solely responsible for the creation of new housing. He continued to accept more students than the local accommodation and our own accommodation could handle. The university demolished the Lincoln and North Village apartments for upper class and graduate students without providing alternative accommodation. Of course, no one can build a home from scratch, so any replacement housing will take several years.
The university has knowingly enrolled more students than the available accommodation can accommodate. Meanwhile, dormitories across campus are in dire need of maintenance, if not complete replacement, as recent events have shown in Chadbourne Hall in the central residential area.
Living here, Amherst residents arguably register to live near a college and face the consequences. Locals have not signed up for UMass students to charge them the price of their own homes and compete with them for basic amenities, and thousands of these locals are the very ones who make it work. our university 24 hours a day.
Beyond the UMass housing crisis, residents of Amherst and across the Pioneer Valley are struggling to find affordable housing. According to a 2021 report by UMass’s Donahue Institute, Hampshire County – which includes Amherst, Northampton and other neighboring towns – needs more than 2,100 homes to meet demand (and 3,500 planned by 2025.) Simply put, the town of Amherst and the surrounding area weren’t designed for so many students, at least without expanding the necessary infrastructure along the way. (Spoiler alert: we didn’t.)
UMass isn’t really to blame for this, however. One of the main reasons for the continued over-enrollment of UMass is the insufficient funding from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. At least that’s according to the administration of the university. To fill funding gaps, especially since the pandemic, the university has resorted to accepting more students to offset costs.
Since the state is said to have contributed to the overcrowding of UMass and the resulting housing shortage, it is expected to provide the necessary funding for the new housing.
Due to supply chain issues related to the pandemic, building new homes is not affordable. To get the most out of their money, the University needs to build apartments that are dense and built to last. This was a key issue with the now demolished Lincoln Apartments, which were designed to be temporary housing as early as the 1970s.
On campus, that means building dorms like the Southwest Residential District, Orchard Hill Residential District, and Commonwealth Honors College Dormitories. Off campus, it will naturally be more difficult to obtain more apartment accommodation, although this can be done thanks to an important provision in Massachusetts law. known as Chapter 40B. Passed in the 1970s to help reduce inequality and segregation, this law ensures that people can build affordable housing projects if 20 to 25 percent of homes are affordable.
We also need awareness and public relations campaigns to show Amherst residents that new affordable housing projects will improve, not hurt, the community. For example, a professor from Princeton to study of a social housing project in a New Jersey suburb, residents have long opposed the development on the grounds that it would lower property values, cause crime and raise taxes. The project did none of these things, instead, increasing the quality of life for its residents.
Amherst and other surrounding towns cannot solve UMass’ housing needs without meeting those of the locals as well. These two groups ended up arguing for the same accommodation. The university created tensions with the local community because its students spent too much money on accommodation. If the university does its part to provide more housing for its student body, then it will be easier for residents to solve their own housing shortage.
To encourage more housing, Amherst needs to streamline the process of building apartments, which are denser and more affordable than single-family homes. To pave the way for affordable housing for everyone in Amherst, residents and students, we need to enable smaller lots, more homes and two-family and multi-family apartments. Collaboration with existing housing-focused groups, such as Amherst Community Connections and the Amherst Housing Authority, is also important.
Despite growing housing challenges since the onset of the pandemic, during the same period progress has been made in addressing the affordable housing crisis, on and off campus. The university plans to to end $ 200 million in replacement housing for graduates and undergraduates in fall 2022 and fall 2023. Northampton, meanwhile, has sworn with a mayor, who has made affordable housing one of the priorities of his administration. Amherst is preparing to enact a variety of suggested reforms, such as removing bureaucratic red tape and providing more efficient and denser housing.
These reforms may come too late for many students and locals. Although the two groups will have to speak out and demand better housing together if we are to change sooner.
Liam Rue can be reached at [email protected].