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Evan Ross: Millennials needed on Town Council


Thursday, July 05, 2018
Millennials needed on Town Council

Our town is diverse — young people, immigrants, seniors, people of color, LGBT folks and many others — and each of those communities sees the town and its challenges through a unique lens built from their experiences in Amherst.

My hope is that Amherst voters will build a Town Council that reflects this diversity. The perspectives of Amherst’s millennial residents are especially important.

While nearly two-thirds of Amherst’s population is between the ages of 18 and 35, local government is dominated by older generations. A council without millennial representation would not reflect the true composition of the town. But beyond representation, generational diversity will positively shape the discourse and success of the council.

The experiences of Amherst’s younger residents drive their priorities. Chief among these is rental housing. Amherst’s rental market is tough; rental vacancy rates are less than 1 percent and rents are higher than in neighboring communities.

Effective advocacy benefits from lived experience and this challenge disproportionately impacts Amherst’s younger residents. I know this struggle well. As a non-student renter, I have contended with a shortage of available housing and I know the difficulty of finding an apartment that is reasonably priced and in acceptable condition. And while I have settled in Amherst, many others have been pushed out.

This problem ripples throughout the community. I have talked with homeowners who lament the changing character of their neighborhoods as owner-occupied properties are converted into rentals.

And as housing costs push folks out, the town loses potential new families setting down roots, with repercussions for enrollment in Amherst schools.

It is clear the new council must tackle Amherst’s housing struggles, and a millennial voice will be essential in advocating for new affordable rental housing.

Affordable housing is only one area where the perspectives of younger residents will improve the council. From transportation to better schools, Amherst residents in their 20s and 30s have important perspectives, experiences, and ideas.

This is one of the reasons I am running in District 4. I want to ensure that Amherst’s Town Council is generationally diverse. I hope that the broader Amherst community works to elect candidates from every generation.

Evan Ross

Amherst

The writer is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a candidate for Town Council in District 4.