October 6, 2005
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—Amherst College will provide the land, as well as volunteer labor, for the construction of four new affordable housing units. At the annual Pioneer Valley Habitat “Raising the Roof” breakfast in Look Park in Northampton this morning, the college and the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity announced a plan—the first in the history of Habitat for Humanity—to donate three acres of college land off South East Street in Amherst to the local chapter of the internationally active group that has brought capital, rather than charity, to those in need since 1976.
Construction of the first home is expected to begin in the fall of 2006. A new Habitat home will be started at the beginning of every academic year for the next four years, so that a maximum number of Amherst College students, faculty, staff and alumni can take part in the work of building. The volunteer workers are expected to raise each home in one year. Designed by Kuhn Riddle Architects, a respected architectural studio in Amherst, the architecturally compelling contemporary houses will be gracefully sited and landscaped and will incorporate features that will reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. Despite their contemporary flair, the houses have been simply designed to be built by volunteers of mixed skills.
All members of the Pioneer Valley are invited to participate in the project, but it is hoped that Amherst College students, faculty and staff will take the lead. Amherst College students have joined their Five-College peers in the hands-on experience of constructing homes since 1992.
Anthony W. Marx, the president of Amherst College, says, “The very first buildings of this college, at its founding, were literally built by the hands of the people of Amherst. The college is delighted to return the favor to the town.” The plan was initiated at Amherst College when James Patchett '00, who was a student at the time, approached then-president Tom Gerety with a proposal that Amherst provide something to a local Habitat chapter that no college ever had: land.
MJ Adams, the executive director of Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, says, “ Amherst College is clearly interested in challenging students to grapple with issues of social justice as part of their education. It's an extraordinary partnership- benefiting Amherst, the town, and the students who may well find the habit of Habitating is a lifelong joyful opportunity to give back to one's community anywhere in the world." The Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity builds homes in partnership with low income families in need. More information is available online at www.pioneervalleyhabitat.org.
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is an ecumenical ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. By the end of 2005, Habitat will have built 200,000 homes and more than 1 million people will be living in Habitat homes they helped build and are buying through no-profit, zero-interest mortgages. More information is available at www.habitat.org.