The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 13, 2004


Benfield Task Force reviews housing scenarios

A wide-ranging discussion of housing options and costs dominated the August 3 meeting of the Benfield Planning Task Force, which is charged with developing a plan for affordable housing and one ball field on the South Street parcel.

Chair John Ballantine first proceeded to review cost estimates for two possible affordable housing scenarios, which had been prepared last spring by Riverside Consulting, a Concord-based firm that provides advice on affordable housing projects.

Rental vs. ownership

Although the March 2004 Special Town Meeting had approved building up to 26 affordable housing units on the parcel, the Riverside cost analysis considered 24 affordable-income units under two distinct scenarios: one where all the units are rental units, the other, where all the units are sold and privately owned. In both cases, actual development would not be undertaken by the town but outsourced.

A 24-unit rental development was estimated to cost $3.5 million, including $2.6 million for construction and the remainder for roads, general development, infrastructure, site work and developer fees. $2.7 million would be covered by permanent debt, leaving a deficit of $800,000 which would have to be made up by the town. The units would rent for an average of $1,450 per month and would generate income of $31,026 per year.

The ownership option would cost an estimated $4.2 million to develop, including $3.2 million for construciton. Home sales were estimated at $3.82 million, assuming an average sales price of $159,000 per unit. Thus, under the ownership option, the deficit would be $377,000.

The estimates were based on the assumptions that two-bedroom rental units would be 900 square feet and two-bedroom owned units would be larger, at 1,100 square feet. Construction costs of $120 per square foot would be slightly lower than mid-level.

Infrastructure costs

In addition to housing costs, the estimates assumed that 1,700 feet of roadways would be needed, at an average cost of $250 per linear foot. Member Dan Holzman reminded the group that construction costs can vary widely, with variables such as 18 or 20 foot wodth, and whether drainage catch-basins, buried electric and fiber-optic lines, granite curbing and other features are needed.

Market info needed

From the audience, resident Sarah Hart questioned whether rental or ownership units would be more desirable and whether the 40B boom in surrounding towns (mosquito, July 30) would affect the need. Task Force member Russ Dion stressed the need for a market study that would address such variables as the mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, and who would occupy them, families with children? Singles? The elderly? Other variables that must be considered, said Dion, include the cost of additional children in town, the sources of funding for the project, the cluster arrangement and traffic patterns.

What is "affordable housing?"

To qualify as 40B affordable, a housing unit must have income restrictions and tenant selection criteria. Owener-occupied affordable housing must have deed restrictions that permit only modest resale price increases. Affordable rental units are reserved for seniors or families who earn no more than the median household income for the area. A defined percentage of affordable ownership units must be reserved for families at or below 80% of the median income. In the Boston area, the area median income (AMI) for a family of four is $80,000; 80% of the AMI is $62,650.

Towns are allowed to establish a local preference for residents. Currently, up to 70% of the units can be for local preference.

Next step

As a next step, Ballantine asked member Alan Lehotsky, who represents the Carlisle Housing Authority, to ask the Authority to look at the market factors for housing. Ballantine pointed out that by the end of August, the Task Force needs to define a number of issues and develop a preferred model that can be presented for discussion at a town-wide planning session in September.

The next meeting of the task force is Tuesday, August 17.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito