The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 19, 2001


Housing Authority favors small developments

Alan Lehotsky of the Carlisle Housing Authority, and Tom Bilotta, a member of Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc., discussed several options for affordable housing at the board of selectmen's meeting on January 9, in the hopes of "getting the support of the selectmen and other boards before we go to Town Meeting in the spring."

Lehotsky explained that many residents have asked the housing authority to define a vision for bringing affordable housing to Carlisle, resulting in a plan recently issued by the authority. The authority will also hold an open hearing at which the public can address questions to Authority members.

Small developments favored

According to Lehotsky, this plan lays out four options: 1) converting existing homes, an option which is too expensive and too small-scale, since only one or two affordable houses come on the market each year; 2) Five to ten-unit small developments costing $600,000 to $1.5 million, an option which the board recommends; 3) 30- to 50-unit self-financing developments, an option which carries an "untenable social impact" and which no one on the board supports; 4) modifications to zoning and planning regulations.

The last option has been generally unsuccessful in other towns, where developers find ways to circumvent the regulations, Lehotsky reported. For instance, in Concord "no developments over three houses have been built" since a regulation came into effect requiring an affordable component to developments of four houses and larger, he added.

Cost to taxpayers

When asked about financing the proposed housing, Bilotta pointed out that Carlisle has one of the lowest affordable housing percentages in the state. As a result, there is interest from the state in encouraging our efforts, and more money may be available than originally thought. Assuming initial development of 37 units in three to four developments, the total cost of about $5.5 million might be reduced by grants to about $3 or $4 million. (After construction, those units are expected to be self-sustaining, requiring no further infusion of money.)

Other costs were also discussed, including that of providing town services to citizens paying little taxes and of adding to the school population. When asked about focusing on elderly housing, Lehotsky pointed out that the state is interested in financing family-units, not elderly-units. He also claimed there will be "no real impact on town appearance" as one of the design goals is to "spread developments around to limit the impact on any one neighborhood."

Middle income beneficiaries

When told that units would be available to people with salaries of $38,000 to $45,000 per year, selectman Doug Stevenson expressed "a philosophical concern with middle-class subsidies versus real affordable housing." He pointed out that most town employees would be unable to afford these "affordable" units. Lehotsky countered that the plan "substantially expands the window of affordability."

Stevenson then noted that about 22 percent of households in Carlisle have incomes lower than the incomes of those who would be in the affordable units. "Why should these lower-income residents be paying for others of possibly higher income?" he asked. Pointing out that citizens often pay taxes for a common good which doesn't benefit them, Lehotsky countered, "Why should the residents of Revere help pay for Carlisle's library?"

2001 The Carlisle Mosquito