Friday, February 18, 2000
Gap in funding a problem for housing authority
The Carlisle Housing Authority is proceeding with plans to site five to seven units of affordable housing on the Conant Land off Rockland Road. On February 9, the group addressed several areas, including possible sources of financing, the types of units to be constructed and the steps needed to get approval from the town for transfer of the land on which to build.
Grazado Velleco Architects (GVA) have been working on a plan for the site. They estimate construction costs of $764,000 for seven units. Much, but not all, of this will be offset by grants and loans. Chair Marty Galligan wants to look into a Federal Home Loan Bank grant, which could total $50,000 to $250,000. Although the application process requires substantial time, Galligan believes Carlisle has a reasonably good shot at a grant of about $50,000 to $70,000 (about $10,000 per unit) because the town is in dire need of affordable housing, and because the town and selectmen have shown their support, particularly considering the valuable piece of land for the site. Other grants and assistance are being pursued, including a Housing Development Support Program reimbursement of $101,000 for site work.
A review of the preliminary cost and financing estimates led to the observation that, even assuming all grants are received, there a significant gap in funding. The finance committee has proposed selling some town land, the parcel off East Riding Drive on Carriage Way, and the housing authority questioned whether the proceeds could be dedicated to affordable housing.
Jim Velleco of GVA will be presenting an interim report at the next meeting on February 23. The housing authority's goal for this development is to provide a small number of units in a low-density layout with a look that fits in with its surroundings and other buildings in Carlisle. An alternative to the current plan would incorporate modular construction, which could offer savings in excess of $50,000. But there is a concern about the quality of the appearance of modular units. Chip Dewing, a Carlisle architect advising the housing authority, suggested continuing with the architectural plan as originally conceived to "see what the site will give us" and "set the bar high" before deciding on compromises. Member Hal Sauer would like to explore, with a modular builder, the possibility of incorporating a design suited to the Carlisle environment.
Other cost issues were discussed. Adherence to town septic system regulations would require additional costs due to the requirement for a 50-percent-larger leaching field for the use of garbage grinders, as opposed to state regulations. The possibility of using labor from Minuteman Science and Technology High School will be explored.
Sauer made a final observation that developers in most towns would have no sympathy with the town's financing problems and would just pack more units onto the site.
Some discussion centered around getting more housing in Carlisle listed as "affordable." As long as less than ten percent of Carlisle housing is in the "affordable" category, there is a risk that a builder could circumvent town zoning laws in constructing a subdivision. Do apartments in houses count, as long as the rent is within the guideline? Member Dorothea Kress said she believes that it must be noted in the deed and the owner must make a commitment to keep the unit affordable for a number of years. Older units would probably not be eligible because of lead paint and other code violations. Is there any incentive, such as a tax write-off, for homeowners to go through this? The committee intends to explore these issues.
Town Meeting requests
At Town Meeting on May 2, Galligan will make a brief presentation on the status of the affordable housing proposal. Two articles for the transfer of land must be approved by voters. The committee is also considering requests for an open meeting to be held three weeks before Town Meeting.
Meanwhile, the quest for attractive affordable housing, at a price Carlisle can afford, goes on. The next meeting of the housing authority is on February 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito