Amherst taking proposals to turn East Street School into affordable apartments

  • The town is soliciting proposals to turn the former East Street School into affordable apartments. TOWN OF AMHERST

Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

AMHERST — The town is continuing to move forward with plans to redevelop the former East Street School into affordable housing for at least 15 households.

On Friday, the town placed an advertisement in the Gazette and on the town website seeking proposals for the renovation of the 31 South East St. property, which is across from Fort River School in the East Amherst village center.

Developer concepts for turning the 1920 school building into housing will be accepted through Oct. 1 at 2 p.m., with a walk-through scheduled Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. 

At the urging of the Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, the Town Council voted in April to dispose of the building and 2-acre parcel as surplus property, which allows Town Manager Paul Bockelman to execute a land disposition agreement and eventually sign a 99-year property lease with a developer.

That lease would stipulate that, in addition to the minimum of 15 affordable apartments, at least half of those must be for households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income. One-tenth of the apartments must be households earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income, while the remainder of the 15 affordable apartments can go to families earning no more than 80 percent of the area median income.

East Street School was last used for overflow classes at Fort River School in the 1990s and as the site of an alternative high school program several years ago.

John Hornik, chairman of the affordable housing trust, told the Town Council that any project would likely take two to three years to complete, and would probably depend on receiving funds from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The planned development comes as four new affordable apartments are coming online this fall at Seventy Amherst, part of a 36-apartment development on University Drive.

For those, the income eligibility is set at or below 80 percent of area median income, which for one person is $49,700, for two people is $56,800, for three people is $63,600 and for four people is $70,950.

These affordable housing units are a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Monthly rents, with hot water included, are $673 for a studio, $789 for a one-bedroom and $1,007 for a two-bedroom. Those rents are less than half the monthly market rate rent for each.

The Amherst Housing Authority is holding a lottery for the four apartments. Applications must be postmarked by Aug. 27, with the lottery to be held Sept. 4.

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