Actually they are already coming (2,000 over the next seven years) so the need for additional student housing is a given.
Two years ago UMass was willing to donate a prime swath of lush lawn for a mixed use development that would help solve two imbalances in our little college town: taxable housing for our #1 demographic and commercial space for goods and services -- all within walking distance of the heart of the campus or downtown Amherst.
The Gateway Project died because public officials failed to show resolve in the face of adversity: NIMBYs with sharpened pitchforks and flamethrowers.
Now after the tumult created by "The Retreat," it's time to take a second look at The Gateway, and this time GET IT DONE.
According to a recent Op/Ed column in the Amherst Bulletin, UMass Chancellor Subbaswamy states "The university is committed to exploring the feasibility of a legislative remedy that would allow us to pursue public-private partnerships to address our housing needs." Bingo!
What the Chancellor is referring to is a work around of the 1993 "Pacheco Rule" that protects public services from being privatized (no wonder then Governor Weld tried to veto it):
A "Special Act" exempting Amherst and UMass from the rule -- but only in a case of public/private partnership to construct new student housing on campus property. The former Frat Row for instance.
Former Frat Row, ready to go!
This "Home Rule Petition" is just what the Chancellor ordered, and would fall into the hands of able state legislators Stan Rosenberg -- a shoe in for the next Senate President -- and Ellen Story.
Two recent influential housing studies indicated the clear and desperate need for student housing, starting with the simple fact that 59% of our population are "college aged".
And until that problem is solved all other aspects of housing concerning families, retirees, low-and- moderate income, or the homeless will never be solved.
If the "rising star" Housing & Sheltering Committee really wants to make the difference, they need to prepare a warrant article for Town Meeting initiating this Special Act process. Now!