Friday, September 2, 2005
Housing Authority confronts the challenge of building affordable housing
After a lull in visible activity on the affordable housing front, the Carlisle Housing Authority (CHA), met on August 16 at the home of chair Alan Lehotsky. Newly elected member Susan Stamps, second-year member James Bohn and interested citizen Eugenia Harris were joined by Selectman John Williams, who will be the liaison between the CHA and the Board of Selectmen, and John Ballantine, former Selectman and chair of the now-disbanded Benfield Task Force. Ballantine will remain involved on an ad hoc basis.
The meeting had a broad agenda that essentially laid out the challenges as the town begins to implement affordable housing in earnest. It soon became clear that one of the qualifications for members of this board was a high tolerance for bureaucratic minutiae. As Lehotsky pointed out, local housing authorities are enabled by state legislation and are not directly subject to town control. They are responsible for interpreting and responding to state housing regulations and the day-to-day management of affordable housing.
The group reviewed the deed restrictions for the Benfield development and Ballantine detailed the progress in getting third-parties to be deed holders. He also updated the group on the subdivision plans (see above) and discussed the possible formation of a Carlisle Housing Trust.
The Mosquito asked both Lehotsky and Ballantine to discuss the role of a housing trust. According to Lehotsky, "A housing trust is a strategic and broad policy group that focuses on long-term issues while a housing authority focuses on day-to-day management of housing. Since Carlisle hasn't had any housing to manage, the CHA has in the past been the strategic group that has tried to raise the fundamental issues and build momentum to actually develop housing. I would expect that there would be significant overlap between the present CHA board and the participants in a housing trust, and that at some point, the mundane management of town housing and lotteries, etc. would be done by an administrator hired by the CHA, most likely a time-shared position with one of our neighboring towns."
Ballantine commented later that Carlisle is a small town and may not have enough people to staff both a housing authority and a housing trust. Instead, he said, Carlisle should do "whatever makes the most sense and gets people moving. I have a very specific agenda: build good-looking integrated housing...and build capacity. We need to show people something that works. Whether not-for-profit or housing trust is secondary."
Implementing affordable housing, a burning topic before the group, led to a lively discussions on a number of issues:
• Housing lottery: The CHA will run the lottery and must quickly research how this is done since the two Laurel Hollow units will likely be available in the next six months and lotteries will be needed for future affordable housing.
• Deed restrictions on the Benfield Land: CHA will not hold the restrictions for housing because, as Ballantine pointed out, "you can't police yourself" and the deed holder must be an uninvolved, qualified third party, such as the Concord Housing Trust.
• Request for Proposals (RFPs) for Benfield housing: Before writing the RFPs that will kick off actual housing construction and development, CHA must wait to see what the Mass. Historical Commission says about the Public Archaeology Laboratories (PAL) report, how the Indians respond, and what the Selectmen decide. (See also "Town hires professional archaeologist to study possible artifacts on Benfield Land," (Mosquito, April 1 2005.)
• Ten-year Affordable Housing Plan: CHA will review the plan, submitted to the DHCD (Department of Housing and Community Development) and determine where its responsibility lies for each element once the DHCD has approved the plan, which is likely by the end of September. The group will meet again in early September to report on progress on these issues.
• Educational plan on affordable housing: CHA will provide leadership and design a plan for educating the town. The need for ongoing education was explicitly recommended in the Affordable Housing Plan.
© 2005 The