Letter: Town Government Not Doing Enough To Address The Challenges Of Student Housing
The following letter was sent to the Amherst Community Resources Committee on October 24, 2022.
As you construct a Residential Rental Bylaw for Amherst at tonight’s special meeting, please keep in mind:
- The percentage of UMass students housed on campus, compared to other state universities, needs to be in the context that we are a much smaller town than the hometowns of most state university towns, with a much more limited capacity to absorb all the students who’d like to live off campus
- That if on-campus housing was a more attractive option, with meal plans being more affordable or optional, with ample places to study, with more apartment-like dwelling units, many more students might choose to live on campus
- That student rental houses need to be regularly inspected, for safety and compliance, and that cost should be borne by landlords, not tenants; or paid for by UMass, to mitigate the damage to Amherst’s housing stock, which is a true cost of the university not providing ample housing
- That there needs to be realistic controls over how much student housing can infiltrate family neighborhoods, for example: a certain distance between student rental houses
- The town needs a method to block large real estate investors from out of town to turn many houses into expensive and under-maintained problem houses
- That a neighborhood such as Amherst Woods might be as vulnerable to this problem as other neighborhoods, so that we are all feeling the outcomes of this problem
- That there be better education of off campus students, as to the effect that loud partying has on their neighbors and the town, and the reputation of the university
- That there might be a point system initiated, where a landlord might lose their ability to register their house as a student rental, if they continuously are cited for problem behaviors
- That Amherst is a town with a total population of 40,000; and that only 15-17,000 are year-round non-student residents. Year-round residents are already overwhelmed, and Amherst is becoming known as a bad choice to raise a family or retire
- That the town is not enforcing its own rules about noise, parking, only 4 unrelated adults per household, due to a lack of staff and lack of will
- That student renters are overcharged and underserved, and feel they have little recourse to complain
- That our town government is doing little to study the problem, including learning from best practices of comparable towns
- That the town government seems to be pushing to increase the number of students in an apartment, increasing the negative impacts on neighborhoods, and ignoring the problem.
Many in our town are exasperated about this growing problem, and the lack of progress and effort by the town government to comprehend and solve it.
I urge you to give deeper and better thought to this urgent problem.
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.