Letter: Downtown Construction Moratorium Will Allow Town To Assess Post-Pandemic Housing Needs


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Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to the Amherst Town Council, The Planning Department, and the Town Manager on March 16

We are writing in support of the proposed moratorium on large building projects in downtown Amherst. Some of you already know of my thoughts and feelings about wise and responsible vs. ill-advised housing development. Independent of all the reasons I have offered in the past for the kind of family friendly and historically and aesthetically sensitive building I see as promoting the town’s best interests, I favor the moratorium for the practical reason that we just don’t know what housing needs will be post-pandemic. 

The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into many aspects of work and learning. If many more people will work or learn from home, then the need to move to Amherst may be far less. As businesses and cultural institutions revive in Boston and NYC, the exodus from major cities will pause and the need for housing in less congested areas will lessen. While I hope more families will move here for our excellent schools, that’s a hope, not a scientific reality. I have not seen any evidence-based findings on demographic changes predicted for the near future. Above all, the number of faculty and staff at our colleges/university will necessarily decline because of the immense plunge in the college age population in our state, the oft-cited demographic cliff! We have no need for more housing for those involved in higher education related jobs. We may have too much housing as it is! Until we have better statistics on the likely need for more housing, it is foolhardy to proceed in building more.

Joyce and Len Berkman

Joyce and Len Berkman have been residents of Amherst since 1965 and raised their two sons here.

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