Amherst keeps ‘Housing Choice Community’ status

Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 04, 2020

AMHERST — Almost three-quarters of all new housing in Massachusetts during the past five years has been built in the 64 cities and towns that, like Amherst, are designated by the state as Housing Choice Communities.

Amherst learned recently from Gov. Charlie Baker that it is one of 56 municipalities redesignated for its continued commitment to building and encouraging new housing production. 

Eight new communities were added this year, including Belchertown and Sunderland, while Northampton remained the only other community in the Housing Choice program in Hampshire and Franklin counties.

This designation, made mostly for cities and towns that have increased housing by at least 5% or 500 units, provides communities access to a competitive capital grant program, and they will also score points for applications to nine other state capital grants, including the MassWorks Infrastructure and the MassDOT Complete Streets programs.

Amherst Senior Planner Nate Malloy said Amherst has issued permits for more than 500 new housing units in the past five years and has made efforts to increase affordable housing, to maintain and increase the town’s subsidized housing inventory.

“We have also used local funds such as Community Preservation Act and tax incentives to support affordable housing in our community,” Malloy said.

Projects underway include Valley Community Development’s single-room occupancy project on Northampton Road and the possibility of the East Street School being turned into affordable apartments.

The Housing Choice designation is part of a strategy to produce 135,000 new housing units in the state by 2025 to meet the high demand for housing.