Opinion: Do You Want Your Neighborhood to Remain a Family Neighborhood? 


One East Pleasant Street. Photo: amherstma.gov

As a former Town Councilor from District 5, I have witnessed, and then followed closely, the inner workings of the Amherst Town Council. I am concerned that Amherst residents are not aware of the direction the leadership of the council is taking the town, in particular on preserving our robust, multicultural downtown and family neighborhoods.

Do you want even more students downtown and in your family neighborhood? Since 2016, Amherst has seen five massive buildings appear downtown, with virtually all units rented to students. Since the Town Council was seated, we have also seen a crisis in our residential neighborhoods, with single family homes being snapped up by investors. Entire streets and neighborhoods have been turning from family neighborhoods to student housing.

In 2021, the town had the choice to hold off on downtown development pending a new look at our zoning bylaw. Over 1000 residents signed a petition asking to do so. On the other side was a petition signed by 38 residents, most of whom had a financial interest in development. Which side did the Amherst Forward-endorsed town councilors take? They sided with the 38 residents and voted to facilitate the dormifying of our downtown.

The Town Council also had opportunities to ease the risk to family neighborhoods through zoning bylaws. As a college town with some low to moderately priced neighborhoods, Amherst has been ripe for the picking. Not only did the council do next to nothing to help out, but it took a potential Task Force on Retention of Housing off the agenda after Councilor Pam Rooney (Disgrict 4) proposed it. 

If you want your neighborhood and the downtown protected, don’t vote for Andy Steinberg or Mandi Jo Hanneke (At Large),Lynn Greisemer or Pat DeAngelis (District 2), George Ryan (District 3), or Anika Lopes (District 4). (Click on their names to see their voting records on zoning, planning, and housing). In spite of their many claims, they don’t represent the vast majority of residents on zoning or planning issues. If you live downtown or in a threatened neighborhood, you might want to send this to your neighbors.

The listings of their actual votes in the links above are those I consider NOT progressive and NOT pro long-term resident – that the public should be aware of.

Instead, vote for Ellisha Walker and Jamie Daniels for At Large, Allegra Clark and Amber Cano-Martin for District 2, Pam Rooney and Jennifer Taub for District 4.

Darcy DuMont is a former Town Councilor and sponsor of the legislation creating the Amherst Energy and Climate Action Committee. She is a founding member of Zero Waste AmherstLocal Energy Advocates of Western MA, and the Amherst Climate Justice Alliance.

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10 thoughts on “Opinion: Do You Want Your Neighborhood to Remain a Family Neighborhood? 

  1. As a multi-generational native to Amherst, I am curious how you feel we should address the need for new housing/development? How do you purpose we adapt to the community of tomorrow? Many people share your concerns regarding the rental demand that defaults to neighborhoods. Please keep in mind that it is important to update and create new housing stock that is safe and healthy for the transient population of our community, which includes new development as well as renovating existing homes. The cost of construction makes it dreadfully difficult to build new housing one unit at a time, which forces developers to pursue quantities of scale to mitigate some of their costs to make it so rent covers their debt service to build these units.

    I have seen properties in outlying neighborhoods, that were previously rentals, switch back to owner occupied properties because of the economic forces taking place as the demand for housing with proximity to campus and village centers is satisfied by the new development, renters no longer have to default to the “family neighborhoods” when they had no other options.

    I agree, there are a number of out of town investors that are still purchasing properties in neighborhoods while their children attend the university because their debt service on the property is lower than the cost of rent, but I think economic forces are finally starting to impact our local market.

    I am interested to hear what your thoughts are regarding replacing aging housing stock to satisfy the increasing demand for housing in our area.

  2. How about some new housing at UMASS? The students want more on-campus housing and lots of year round residents do too. This isn’t rocket science. When UMASS adds 8,000 or so more students and builds 2,000 or so new dorm beds the students have nowhere to go. Build 5,000 more beds on campus. Time for UMASS to finally take responsibility.

  3. The simplest solution to our housing woes is for UMass to “right size” its enrollment which UMass President Marty Meehan has gone on record as saying the University will have to do in the face of the impending “demographic cliff” and the declining rates of college age people deciding to invest in a college education due to the spiraling costs of tuition — and yes, housing. UMass unilaterally increased its enrollment without providing commensurate housing in a cynical attempt to offset reduced appropriations by the state, revealing its lack of regard for both its students and the town which hosts it. It is — and has — abetted the greed of a handful of developers who actively don’t want the University to built on-campus accommodations. We should demand they “right size” now.

  4. I appreciate suggesting that UMass keep all the housing on campus, but I don’t think you would realize the impact that would have on the town of Amherst. There is a lot of industry that exists around housing and real estate, but we do not have much industry/economy outside of that, unfortunately. I think it is an indirect way to provide funds and resources to a host community to have towns/communities be able to provide housing/shelter for the students. In addition to that, it seems to be part of the college experience for residents to learn what it is like to live in their own home and make sure everything runs well, and, hopefully, to learn how to be a good neighbor.

    The state will continue to invest in higher education as it does well for the vitality of our state, so we should learn ways to embrace the opportunity that we have instead of fight it.

  5. No one is suggesting that UMass house ALL of its students on-campus, Mr. Crossman. We just want them to house more than they do now so our town doesn’t continue to lose its year-round population which threatens its viability. You really should disclose that you are the property manager for Kamins Realty and that your bread and butter is student rentals. No shame in that and no one is disputing the need for off-campus rentals and the financial benefits they bring. Again, the issue is what is the right balance? Also, just wondering, but do you live in Amherst?

  6. Re voting records linked here, records that aren’t just about housing and neighborhoods: if you are suggesting people make an honest comparison, please include the same votes for each group of issues they voted on.

    For example, some Racial Equity votes are listed for some of the original Town Councilors, but not listed for other original Town Councilors. Yet:

    VOTED 7-5-1 by roll call (Bahl-Milne, Brewer, De Angelis, DuMont, Griesemer, Ross, and Swartz voted Yes; Hanneke, Pam, Ryan, Schreiber, and Steinberg voted No; Schoen Abstained) to amend the motion by replacing it with the following: “To direct the Town Manager to fund, at a minimum, eight community responder positions to begin no later than February 1, 2022 and report back to the Town Council no later than January 31, 2022 about how he plans to implement and evaluate the program, and assure that funding can continue in FY23.”

    The Docs provided/linked do not show Racial Equity positive votes you agreed with for Griesemer and DeAngelis, yet the Docs linked do show those negative votes for the others when you disagreed.

    Apples to apples reveals that most elected officials, like most humans, are not just one thing. Which things matter most to each voter obviously varies, but making an active choice to not include all the same votes in the provided/links Docs is not an oversight, but rather actively misleading.

    Town Council 06-21-21 Minutes:

  7. It is offensively discriminatory when you and your allies fight against mansions in your neighborhood being converted to multiple more demographically-accessible housing units for people who cannot afford to buy houses in downtown Amherst.

    People like those you’ve endorsed (and supported in these districts in the past) have moved to downtown Amherst from places like the NYC metro area and California. They love the look and feel of downtown and buy gorgeous houses in the finite few blocks sandwiched around and between predictable future growth areas of downtown Amherst, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, and University Drive. Before buying $500,000 to $1,000,000 retirement houses , they don’t adequately consider that the primary business of Amherst is educating students and that where they’re buying a house is exactly the neighborhood in which students live and go to school and through which they walk to town.

    These university and downtown abutters move in and they run for Town Council for the express purpose of stopping downtown apartments’ growth and preventing housing equity.

    Let’s stop using discriminating against renters as a campaign platform. Let’s address student behavior if that’s in fact your real concern.

  8. Apropos of this thread, I hope the Town will not grant a permit for the proposed five-story building at 45 and 55 South Pleasant Street. What an eyesore that would be, right on the Town Common and towering over the existing three-story structures. And to what end? More housing for UMass students.

    A three-story building would be much more suitable for that location.

  9. Hi Mr. Bloom, I will disclose that I work as a property manager for Kamins Real Estate, unfortunately I can’t agree that our bread and butter is only student housing as a majority of the properties we manage are not student rentals.

    I was renting a room in Amherst, for a number of years, then was able to get my own apartment in Northampton. I have finally purchased a home for myself and my partner that is in Belchertown. We could not afford to buy a home in Amherst so we hope that development continues to satisfy the rental demand and that will allow transient tenants the opportunity to rent a place that meets their needs/wants so they do not have to default to renting in neighborhoods that doesn’t meet their criteria, (most important amenity seems to be proximity to school, towns and public transportation).

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