Housing Trust and Authority team up on Goff project

by Karina Coombs

The Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust has accepted an offer by Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky to take over some of the work related to proposed development of a ten-bedroom Department of Developmental Services (DDS) housing on the Goff property. “[We have] a lot of experience writing [bid documents including Request for Proposals] RFPs, studying respondents and working with potential developers to arrive at agreements,” said Lehotsky during the October 24 meeting of the Housing Trust.

What’s the difference?

Both organizations are dedicated to developing and managing affordable housing, but have somewhat different powers and areas of focus. The Trust was created by the town in part to facilitate the purchase and sale of land for housing. Town Meeting authorized the purchase of the Goff Land by the Trust. In many towns the Housing Authority manages public housing projects. Carlisle chose instead to lease a portion of the Benfield Land to a non-profit which will build and the manage Benfield Farms housing. The Authority was instrumental in writing the bid documents and interviewing prospective developers. It has also interfaced with DDS regarding housing for the disabled. 

Lehotsky explained that the Housing Authority could begin working on the RFP and have 85% of it completed before a decision must be made as to which end of the property would house the DDS units. The Housing Authority would also like to select the developer for the project, explaining they have more time to focus on the process than members of the Housing Trust, most of whom also serve on the Board of Selectmen. “You do a lot already,” said Lehotsky. The Housing Authority would bring their results to the Housing Trust for review prior to finalizing the selection. Lehotsky also noted that the Housing Authority did not have money to publish the RFP and would need the Housing Trust’s financial assistance.

“Having seen the work you did on Benfield I’m all for that,” said Housing Trust member John Williams regarding the request. Housing Trust member Peter Scavongelli added that it was not often that people came offering to do some of the work, but asked if the Housing Trust had the legal ability to pass along the responsibilities. Housing Trust Chair Greg Peterson explained the group had the authority to designate agents on their behalf and the group agreed to make Lehotsky its agent.

Lehotsky also asked the group to consider ceding the ground lease to the Housing Authority, but Peterson said that that decision would ultimately need to await legislation proposed by Governor Deval Patrick. Patrick announced in January that he would like to consolidate an estimated 240 local housing authorities into six regional authorities. Massachusetts House Bill H 44 was set for a joint chamber hearing earlier this month. 

Mixed-income housing studies

In addition, the Housing Trust voted to move forward on both a market analysis and financial feasibility study. (See “Affordable Housing Trust studies market, costs,” October 2.) “There are folks who believe there is no market need for rental housing in Carlisle,” said Peterson. The Housing Trust voted to approve both studies with five in favor and one abstention, by Carolyn Ing, on each of the two votes. 

While the affordable housing project at Benfield Farms contains apartments for low- and moderate-income seniors, the Housing Trust is looking at future projects which may include a mix of market-rate and affordable units. As long as at least a quarter of the units are affordable, the state allows towns to count all units in a rental development toward the town’s 10% affordable housing goal. The market study will determine the level of interest in developing mixed-income multi-family housing. RKG Associates will conduct the study, with a quote of $17,700 for the work. 

The financial feasibility study will look at the cost of developing a number of different potential housing scenarios, either on the Banta-Davis Land or another piece of land within Carlisle yet to be identified. RKG Associates was also chosen to conduct the second study, with a quote of $7,100. 

Peterson stressed the importance of understanding both factors in pursuing a housing plan for Carlisle. “This helps us understand the fundamentals: What is the demand for market-rate housing in Carlisle? What would it take to get rental developments done at two locations potentially: Banta-Davis or a parcel yet to be acquired or even identified?” 

Banta-Davis study

To begin the discussion process, Peterson explained that the Housing Trust needed to formally request authorization from the Carlisle School Committee to draft an RFP to study the existing wastewater treatment plant and traffic study related to increased use at the Banta-Davis site. The Housing Trust approved the vote unanimously.

Goff Master Plan

Peterson explained that the first design workshop went well for the Goff property at 338 Bedford Road, but the Housing Trust is hoping more local design professionals from the community will attend the second workshop on November 9. Barnett suggested they add price tags to the design elements available during the planning process. She wants to allow each participant an opportunity to consider the estimated costs of tennis courts, basketball courts, senior centers and other similar structures as they add them to a map of the property. 

The Housing Trust’s next meeting is scheduled for December 12. Peterson noted that they should have drafts from both studies as well as Goff design information. ∆