Friday, March 3, 2000
Small housing project makes financing tough
"If it was easy, everybody would be doing it," said selectman Vivian Chaput in response to the housing authority's update on their proposal to build seven units of affordable housing on the Conant Land. In their presentation to the selectmen on February 22, housing authority chair Marty Galligan and advisor Ed Sonn relayed the basic message that, to do what they thought was right for the town in keeping the size of the development small, there was a tough row to hoe on finances. "There are tough issues with money," said Galligan, "but, all things considered, I think we're doing the right thing for Carlisle."
Although the housing authority has pursued several different grant and loan programs, the basic problem is that small developments cannot cover their fixed costs. Given the sensitive site and their desire to maintain control over it, the housing authority intends to rent rather than sell the units, and rents are strictly regulated. Chaput noted that if a nonprofit corporation is set up as owner, some units can be rented at market rates and still be counted toward the town's number of affordable units. Selectman Michael Fitzgerald responded, "If the objective is affordable housing, the market rate units don't cut it." With a mixture of practical advice and philosophy, Sonn told the selectmen, "If the first one doesn't work, the next one will never happen."
Sonn also said that the authority was intending to build the three townhouses on as little land as possible. Septic and well tests were positive, but Sonn said that they did not want to cut it too close on water needs. Chaput suggested seven acres, one acre for each unit, which would be consistent with zoning in the center. Selectman John Ballantine suggested that, given the strong sentiment recently expressed for preserving the Conant Land, the amount of land should be only one acre for every four bedrooms, consistent with the elderly housing complex at Village Court. This would require only four acres.
Sonn and Galligan presented architectural drawings of gabled New England style townhouses which they thought would mesh nicely with other buildings in the center. The three-bedroom units would have 1,260 square feet and the two-bedroom units would have 1,007 square feet, with no basements. The units would have one entrance off Rockland Road and would not be visible from Westford Street.
There is still one opening for a fifth volunteer on the board of the nonprofit corporation set up to develop this project. Anyone interested should contact Sonn or Galligan.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito