Gerry Weiss: UMass admits more students than it can handle

Thursday, October 06, 2022

In Audrey Child’s letter of response (“Another side of housing in Amherst,” Sept. 30) to John Varner’s guest column, (“Amherst awash and slowly going under,” Sept. 23) she says it’s the fault of neighborhood intervention that there isn’t enough student housing in town, thus causing students to move into neighborhoods.

Ms. Child mentions two projects that didn’t happen. One of them is probably the large apartment building proposed by an out of state developer some 14 years ago to be built on Hobart Lane, infamous for yearly partying. However, it’s not even clear that neighborhood pressure was the spike in that project. That developer needed to have a hearing in front of the Select Board, as required by state law for a comprehensive permit. The developer, the night of the hearing, was asked questions about their management plan and about their future plans to keep or sell off the building. No vote was taken by the Select Board, of which I was a member, but the company pulled up stakes the next morning.

Also not evident in Ms. Child’s reply is the fact that through new construction and expansion, including the soon-to-come 26 Spring St., Amherst will have added 911 apartment style units in 18 buildings since 2013. Like the Longmeadow Drive project she mentions in her letter, some of them are affordable units that are unlikely to be inhabited by students. In all, about 725 units (averaging more than one student per unit), are available to students.

I would contend that the problem lies not with neighborhood resistance, but with a university admitting more students than they are willing to provide beds for; thereby putting unreasonable pressure on a town our size.

Gerry Weiss