The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 20, 2005


Plan lays out 10-year affordable housing program

The Board of Selectmen got its first peek at the long-awaited Affordable Housing Plan on Tuesday. David Freedman of the Planning Board and Affordable Housing Plan Task Force began his presentation at the May 17 meeting by quoting an article from the Mosquito entitled "Carlisle to face affordable housing decisions." The article stated that Carlisle currently has 18 units, or less than 2% of its housing stock classified as affordable. "By taking the initiative and addressing its affordable housing needs, a town like Carlisle can make sure the goals are met in a way that doesn't threaten the town's own needs to protect its natural resources and its character." Selectmen nodded at the timely and perceptive observations in the article until Freedman informed them that it was taken from the April 13, 1990, issue. Here we are 15 years later and almost nothing has changed, but as Freedman proceeded to describe in graphic detail, Carlisle's time has run out.

Draft ready this month

A preliminary draft of the 100-page Affordable Housing Plan will be available by the end of May. The Task Force plans to hold a public hearing sometime in June, where the townspeople can respond to the aggressive housing action plan being advocated by the affordable housing team. Carlisle is required to produce affordable housing equal to 10% of its total housing stock and protection comes from achieving 0.75% of this goal each year (12 to14 units) or 1.5% (24 to 28 units) biannually. To receive credit, first the town must file an Affordable Housing Plan. It does not have to be formally approved by Town Meeting, but it does have to be specific with regard to time frame (year by year), production of units (0.75% of housing stock = 12 units), and include at least one of four possible housing strategies: (1) areas where land use regulations will be modified, (2) sites where comprehensive permits will be welcomed, (3) preferred characteristics of development, and/or (4) municipally-owned sites for affordable housing.

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is expected to respond to the submitted plan in 45 days as to whether or not it is complete. If it is complete and then approved (within 90 days of filing), then the original filing date becomes the effective date of the plan. Housing permitted after that date can count towards the percent thresholds. If a plan is deemed incomplete, it is returned for completion. The refiling date would then become the effective date. After plan approval, the town can apply to DHCD for certification when comprehensive permits are granted for affordable housing totaling at least 0.75% of housing stock annually. Being certified allows a town to deny a Comprehensive Permit, but does not allow a town to refuse an application.

Bylaw reforms needed

An Affordable Housing Plan containing vague and grandiose promises will not make it past the DHDC. An approved plan should express a community's vision, and good faith efforts to achieve that plan carry some weight. It is in this scenario that Freedman and the Affordable Housing Task Force created their proposed plan for the townspeople and the DHCD to evaluate.

First, the town must implement planning and regulatory reforms. The list as put forth by Freedman and the Task Force requires Carlisle to:

1. adopt inclusionary zoning. By inclusionary, they mean providing incentives to developers via the town bylaws to include affordable units in their subdivisions.
2. amend the accessory apartment bylaw. Within Carlisle's current housing stock, there are a number of homes that have accessory apartments that could be reasonably modified to create an affordable accessory housing unit.
3. promote use of the zoning bylaw that allows conversion of houses built before May 1962 into two-family dwellings.
4. explore adoption of 40R districts. This is popularly known as "Smart Zoning" whereby housing is located near town centers with accessible public transportation.
5. waive permit fees for affordable housing.
6. adopt affordable housing guidelines.
7. streamline permit approval process for affordable housing.

Housing production goals

The Task Force advocated building local capacity by securing and maintaining EO418 housing certification, hiring a housing coordinator, creating an affordable housing trust fund, and re-establishing the Municipal Land Committee. A key part of the Affordable Housing Plan is a ten-year listing of Carlisle's production goals. Freedman laid out the following sequence required to meet the 12 units/year (0.75%) requirement (see table).

Possible housing locations

The Task Force identified seven town-owned parcels as possible locations for future affordable housing. They agreed that these would be grouped, along with accessory apartments or other deed-restricted affordable units produced by the town or through private development, to result in either 15- or 30-unit annual targets (to allow for a higher threshold after the 2010 census). Some of these developments might include market rate units to help finance the development of the affordable units or units at 100% to 150% affordability (150% affordability means 150% of the median income of a region) to help maintain housing diversity. These five groupings were not prioritized by the Task Force, but are presented in no particular order as A-E options below for input to the Board of Selectmen and then the Town at a public presentation of the draft plan on June 9. They are as follows:

A. 8 units at either Conant or as an extension of Village Court on the current septic field by connecting Village Court to the new wastewater treatment plant, plus 7 other affordable units = 15 total affordable units.

B. 25 units on the Cranberry Bog service parcel (across Curve street from the bog house), plus five affordable units from other sources, plus perhaps up to 10 market rate units = 30 total affordable units.

C. 25 units on either the Gage Woodlot or the Town Farm/Town Forest, plus 5 affordable units from other sources, plus perhaps up to 10 market rate units = 30 total affordable units.

D. 30 units on the old Red Pine tree farm (trees are dying out and are identified as a problem needing a solution) within the Greenough land, off Maple Street near Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, plus 10 market rate homes. Possible location for a rental development, an identified need in Carlisle. All units within a rental development, including market rate units, count towards annual thresholds = 30 total affordable units.

E. 6 units in and/or near the Greenough barn, perhaps accessed through Billerica, plus 9 affordable units from other sources. Though the Billerica access may be problematical, renovating the barn for housing might provide a solution for the ConsComm/BOS impasse on this structure and would appeal to the State as an adaptive re-use, and might be eligible for Historic Preservation funds from CPA = 30 total affordable units.
Copies of the 100-page Affordable Housing Plan will be available in the Gleason Library and the Town Hall prior to the June public hearing. All interested townspeople and concerned abutters are invited to attend.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito