Promoting affordable housing among goals of Amherst community grant proposals

Staff Writer
Saturday, January 07, 2017

AMHERST — Promoting affordable housing, enhancing community services for low- and moderate-income residents and making public infrastructure more accessible are among the projects encouraged in the town’s 2017 community development strategy.

This strategy will help guide the Community Development Block Grant Advisory Committee, which is seeking applications for both social service and non-social service projects.

Senior Planner Nathaniel Malloy said proposals are due at Town Hall by noon on Jan. 6.

As a mini-entitlement community, defined by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development as one with a statistical need based on the population of low-and moderate-income residents, Amherst is expected to receive about $825,000.

The community development strategy includes 18 priority projects, including creating affordable and fair housing options for the chronically homeless and low income families, individuals, seniors and the disabled; strengthening partnerships between the town and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College and Hampshire College with respect to housing, economic development and student rentals; and adding trails that connect the town’s elementary and secondary schools with residential areas and open spaces.

The projects, though, are limited to specific target areas, which include Amherst town center, East Amherst Village Center and Pomeroy Village Center/ East Hadley Road.

Last year, $535,000 was used for non-social services, including $200,000 to renovate six bathrooms at the Bangs Community Center and $150,000 to improve walkway from North Pleasant Street to the Bangs entrance, and $165,000 was used for social services, with $48,550 going to the emergency food pantry at Amherst Survival Center and $36,550 for youth development for the Amherst Boys and Girls Club.

The CDBG Advisory Committee will meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the police station community room to review proposals, and will then make recommendations to Town Manager Paul Bockelman and the Select Board.

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