The following letter was sent to Amherst’s Community Resources Committee on August 7, 2022.
Here’s a question for CRC and Town Council, who I’ve heard are considering the possibility of dropping the limit on how many unrelated people can live in one house:
We are a unique town, being the second smallest community in the United States that hosts a state university’s flagship campus. (Most of them are in state capitals. So for UMass to boast of how much on campus housing it has, consider that we are not in a large, absorbent city, for all those UMass does not provide housing for.)
Half or more of houses in Amherst are rentals, and a large portion of those are student rentals, and a large portion of those are over-occupied. This is evidenced by having 5+ cars parked on the front lawn.
It’s not easy to find other towns where 20,000 of the total population of 40,000 are students, but wise decisions cannot be made without planning, including examining comparable cities with similar policies and rules and laws as Amherst is considering.
So the question is: where has it worked, in a comparable town or city, to deregulate the number of unrelated people living in one “dwelling unit”?
What have been the consequences on noise complaints, housing prices, percent of houses lived in by families, seniors, young professionals, impact on emergency services and condition of the town’s infrastructure?
I urge you to not make, or even consider, such an impactful decision without the proper exploration. As they say, “proper prior planning prevents poor performance.”
I urge you to do what will build Amherst into a diverse and responsive town, and to prevent Amherst from the deterioration that continues to occur from allowing and encouraging absentee investors overcrowding and overcharging for houses in Amherst, blocking families from buying here, as a huge side effect.
Ira Bryck has lived in Amherst since 1993, ran the Family Business Center for 25 years, hosted the “Western Mass. Business Show” on WHMP for seven years, now coaches business leaders, and is a big fan of Amherst’s downtown.