Town Agrees To Buy Properties On Belchertown Road For Affordable Housing Development

Street view of lots purchased for affordable housing by the Town Of Amherst. Photo: Toni Cunningham

A purchase and sale agreement for three adjacent properties on Belchertown Road has been signed by the Town and the Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust (AMAHT) for a future affordable housing development of at least 30 units.

The properties, owned by Keith Kaneta, are located at 72, 76, and 80 Belchertown Road, opposite Colonial Village in the East Amherst village center. Two of the properties have single-family houses on them, the third is vacant. Totalling 2.66 acres, the three properties were assessed this year at $696,400. Reached by email, John Hornik, Chair of the AMAHT, said the asking price was $785,000 and the agreed-upon sale price was $735,000. 

In early November, Hornik and Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek presented a request to the Community Preservation Act Committee (CPAC) for $800,000 to “support AMAHT housing development projects” but did not disclose the location or details of the impending property purchase as negotiations were still ongoing. On November 19, CPAC voted unanimously to recommend approval of the request, which will consist of a loan to be paid back using CPA funds over a number of years. 

The Town Council will hear a presentation on the purchase at their next meeting and will likely refer it to the Finance and Community Resources Committees for review. A public forum has been scheduled for January 4 since it represents an appropriation outside of the regular budget cycle. A final vote by the Town Council on the CPA recommendation is expected in January.

The next step for the AMAHT will be to contract for a site survey, environmental assessment, wetlands analysis, and other pre-development assessments. The costs for the assessments, estimated at $31,500, will be covered by CPA funds as part of the $800,000. 

It is anticipated that the property could accommodate 35-40 affordable housing units. A November 12 memo from the AMAHT to CPAC, said that the Trust has begun reaching out to potential developers, and believes there is sufficient interest to assure a path forward. A request for proposals for development would be issued after the sale is complete.

According to the AMAHT’s CPA application, the 2013 Housing Production Plan recommended that the Town develop 225 housing units for low and extremely low income households in the following five years, including 40 for homeownership, 50 units for seniors, and 25 units for those with disabilities. Fewer than 50 units have been added in the past 5 years. This development would help achieve those goals.

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